Consumer health advocates continue work on health coverage at the Families USA Conference – National Consumers League

With only 60 days left for consumers to enroll in the Health Care Marketplace, I joined health care advocates from across the country to hear from healthcare experts at the annual Families USA conference.  Keynote speaker, Vice President Joe Biden, opened the conference with rousing words stating, “Now for the first time, health care coverage for all, is the law of the land.”

The law is a testament to the power of advocates and others, who worked tirelessly to secure this basic right for Americans.

Vice President Biden kicked off the conference with a challenge to remember what life was like before the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – when pregnancy was a pre-existing condition, young adults were kicked off their parents’ health plan, lifetime dollar limits were in effect, and patients could be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition.  Americans no longer go to sleep at night worrying that if a family member gets sick, they might lose their house, their savings, and go bankrupt due to high medical bills and inadequate health insurance. “It is not just about physical health coverage anymore, but about peace of mind,” said Biden.

Many speakers, including Biden, noted that the conversation about health care has changed.  Instead of talking about health care as a privilege, it’s now agreed that health care is a right everyone deserves access to.  People who previously had no access to preventive care are going to the doctor and getting much needed care as a result of the ACA.

However, the conversation needs to shift to making sure this law works.  The current challenge, as we all know, is getting people enrolled.  As Ezra Klein of The Washington Post noted, “The problem will not be if the website is working properly, the problem will be that some people don’t even have a computer to access a website.” We will need to make sure those populations on the fringe are able to enroll and benefit from the health law.

Kentucky was held up as an example of what can happen when a state opens up its own exchange and recognizes the value of ensuring all its citizens have health insurance. Ranked at the bottom of most national health statistics, Kentucky decided that this was an opportune time to improve its citizens’ health by putting the people before politics. Kentucky is the only southern state to expand Medicaid and open a state-based exchange.  This decision meant providing coverage to nearly 640,000 uninsured people in the state. Expanding Medicaid allows those people who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid and too little to enter into the Marketplace access to coverage under the law. Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear stated that an independent analysis proved that expanding Medicaid will inject over $16 billion into Kentucky’s economy over the next 8 years and create at least 17,000 new jobs. It is clearly a win-win situation.

“The time for politics is over,” proclaimed Klein.  Over 3 million have signed up for private plans through federal and state exchanges as of January 24.  It is expected that a million more will be signing up in January.   As Biden noted, the “ACA is the most consequential piece of legislation” in decades.  Let’s make it work.

Advocacy group: President Obama to announce welcome pay raise for federal contract workers – National Consumers League

January 28, 2014

Contact: NCL Communications, Ben Klein, (202) 835-3323,

Washington, DC–Tonight during President Obama’s fifth State of the Union address, he is expected to announce that his administration will issue an Executive Order to raise the minimum wage for employees of federal contractors to $10.10 an hour. The National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s pioneering worker and consumer advocacy organization, applauds the President’s use of his Executive powers to take a positive step for this group of minimum wage workers.

“This is a giant step in the right direction for thousands of workers struggling to make ends meet on the paltry federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour,” said Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of NCL. “We, along with many allies, including Change To Win and the Good Jobs Nation, have been demonstrating outside federal buildings calling on the President to use the power of the pen to lift these poorly paid workers out of poverty.”

The Executive Order mirrors the President’s proposal for raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Similar legislation has been introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), and in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. George Miller (D-CA), Both bills are stalled in Congress. NCL applauds President Obama for making income inequality in America a top priority. 

For the past year, federal contract employees and worker advocacy groups, including NCL, have been staging one-day strikes at federally operated buildings, such as Union Station and the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, to ask President Obama to do what is right by those who work in federal facilities.  Many low-income workers told their stories of wage theft, working overtime with no additional pay, unsafe working conditions, and lack of benefits or raises over many years. Many bravely went on strike, putting their jobs in jeopardy, to demonstrate and tell their stories.  

Many Americans are often surprised to learn that workers in these facilities are so poorly paid that they must rely on taxpayer-funded relief programs for food, housing, and healthcare assistance.

“The President and Labor Secretary Tom Perez clearly understand that Americans of all political persuasions strongly back increased minimum wages for the lowest income workers.  This is just what the doctor ordered. We applaud the President and his Administration for giving a leg up to those at the lowest end of the economic ladder,” said Michell McIntyre, NCL’s Outreach Director, Labor and Worker Rights.


About the National Consumers League
The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit

Fewer children forced to toil in the Uzbek cotton fields – National Consumers League

makiFor several years, the Child Labor Coalition (CLC), which NCL co-chairs with the American Federation of Teachers, has worked closely with the Cotton Campaign to reduce child labor and forced child labor in Uzbekistan’s cotton harvest. Uzbekistan, run by totalitarian dictator Islam Karimov, is the only country in the world where the central government has recently played a major role in causing large-scale forced child labor. 

For many years, Uzbekistan’s leaders emptied schools and literally forced school children—sometimes very small children—to harvest cotton, a grueling, painful, sometimes dangerous job. The country is one of the largest cotton producers in the world, and Uzbek cotton sometimes finds its way into the U.S. apparel industry, despite a pledge by more than 130 apparel companies that they will not knowingly use Uzbek cotton in their garments.

For years, Uzbek children worked beside similarly conscripted college students and older adults for four to eight weeks at a time, missing much-needed school in the process. The workers were paid so little that their labors should be considered a form of temporary slavery. Those who refused were expelled from school, fired from their jobs, denied public benefits, or worse. Some harvesters have reported being beaten because they did not meet their cotton quota.  The forced labor of children and adults did not enrich struggling local farmers, but benefited the country’s ruling elite.

Despite aggressive advocacy by the Cotton Campaign, Karimov had intractably refused to ease the use of child labor and forced labor. Recently, however, the situation in Uzbekistan has shown signs of changing.

Advocacy by the Cotton Campaign led to a very surprising success last summer, when the US State Department issued its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) country-by-country report and it included a downgrade of Uzbekistan to the lowest tier ranking, signaling that the Uzbek government was simply not doing enough to reduce forced labor and the worst forms of child labor in the country. Although the advocacy community had worked hard and long to bring about this downgrade—and it was completely deserved—it was still a surprise. The US government has many strategic concerns in Uzbekistan related to supply routes for the war in Afghanistan, and it was assumed that the State Department would not be willing to issue the deserved downgrade for fear of alienating Uzbek leaders. Fortunately, the State Department honored the intent of the TIP report and in so doing, applied additional pressure to the Uzbek government.

Soon afterwards, advocacy pressure may have led the Karimov regime to allow, for the first time, an inspection team by the International Labour Organization (ILO) for the 2013 cotton harvest, which began last fall. The Cotton Campaign had been pressing for an ILO inspection for several years. Uzbek officials relented and agreed to allow in an ILO team comprised of staff members, not the “high level” mission that civil society had hoped for that would have included representatives of workers, employers, and civil society. Despite this, getting the ILO in to monitor the harvest was a small victory and an important step towards a fuller monitoring visit.

What did this year’s harvest look like? For the second year in a row, it appears fewer schools with young students were closed and fewer young students were compelled to harvest cotton. However, like last year, a greater number of teens and young adults were forced to go to the fields toil under conditions that are often very difficult. ILO investigators say they did not see “systematic forced child labor,” but acknowledge they saw numerous children working. The advocacy community still believes that children are compelled to work against their wishes, but number of young children is decreasing.

Much work remains to be done in Uzbekistan, a million Uzbeks still toil in forced labor every autumn and the country continues to repress civil society and human rights. The CLC and the international advocacy community, under the leadership of the Cotton Campaign will continue to pressure Uzbek officials to end the forced labor of children and adults in Uzbekistan. We hope to build on the promising developments of last year.

Go union-made for the Big Game – National Consumers League

With the Super Bowl nearly upon us, it’s time to start thinking about all the fun foods we might indulge in at Super Bowl parties. Everything from chips and dip to hotdogs and beer, Americans love having a good time while watching the Big Game.This year, consider buying union-made products – it’s easier than you may think and you can support American workers and American business.

This year it’s important to remember that when buying goodies for the big day, we look to include union-made products that support good-paying American jobs. That list is a bit bigger than one would suspect, especially with the pervasive assumption that nothing is made in the USA anymore. Consider serving some of these union-made items at your Super Bowl party.

And, at halftime, consider working off some of those calories with some backyard football featuring the same union-made game balls used in the Super Bowl – Wilson footballs. While cheering on your favorite NFL player, a member of the NFL Players Union, please take the time to think about all the things you enjoy that are brought to you by union jobs.


  • Better Cheddars
  • Bugles
  • Chex Mix
  • Chips Ahoy!
  • Corn Nuts
  • Crunch & Munch
  • Delimex taquitos
  • Doritos
  • Frito-Lays chips & snacks
  • Ghirardelli chocolates
  • Heinz baked beans
  • Hormel chili
  • Kraft snack products
  • Lay’s potato chips
  • Oreos
  • Oroweat buns
  • Planter’s Nuts
  • Ritz Crackers
  • Rosarita refried beans
  • Sara Lee buns
  • Snyder of Berlin
  • Tostitos
  • Wheat Thins
  • Wise snacks


  • Armour sausages
  • Ball Park hot dogs
  • Butterball poultry
  • Eckrich sausages
  • Healthy choice poultry
  • Hebrew National hot dogs
  • Hormel hot dogs
  • Hormel poultry
  • Johnsonville brats
  • Nathan’s hot dogs
  • Oscar Meyer hot dogs
  • Tyson poultry



  • French’s mustard
  • Gulden’s mustard
  • Heinz ketchup
  • Hidden Valley Ranch
  • Land O’Lakes butter
  • Lea & Perrins Worcester sauce
  • Old El Paso
  • Open Pit BBQ sauces
  • Pace salsa & picante sauces
  • Vlasic pickles

Soft drinks


  • Barq’s Root Beer
  • Coca-Cola
  • Minute Maid
  • Pepsi
  • Sprite
  • Welch’s


  • Anheuser Busch
  • Bud Light
  • Budweiser
  • Busch
  • Icehouse
  • Labatt Blue
  • Leinenkugel’s
  • Michelob
  • Miller High Life
  • Miller Lite
  • Milwaukee’s Best
  • Molson
  • Pabst
  • Rolling Rock
  • Shock Top



  • Bacardi Rum
  • El Jimador Tequila
  • Jim Beam
  • Knob Creek
  • Seagram’s
  • Wild Turkey

Watchdog report: scammers increasingly relying on Internet-enabled phone technology to reach victims – National Consumers League

January 22, 2014

Contact: NCL Communications, Ben Klein, (202) 835-3323,

Washington, DC — The National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s pioneering consumer advocacy organization, has released its annual compilation of the top ten scams reported to, NCL’s flagship project for reporting and tracking scams. Good news: payment to fraudsters by credit card is up. Bad news: telemarketing fraud is making a major comeback. In more than 36 percent of all consumer complaints, victims were contacted by phone. This figure is up from approximately 25 percent in 2012. 

Using Internet calling software, scammers can peddle their schemes from practically anywhere on the globe, and they deceive Caller ID systems to make their calls appear to come from U.S. numbers.

“Scammers are finding new ways to use the Internet to contact high volumes of consumers on the phone,” said John Breyault, NCL’s vice president of public policy on telecommunications and fraud. “The days of dialing numbers and calling consumers one by one are long gone. Today, scammers can call millions of people with the click of a mouse.” 

The most frequently reported scams from 2012 remained the same in 2013, with nearly 75 percent of all complaints reported to falling into one of three categories: Fake Check Scams (24.23%), Internet Merchandise Scams (23.04%), and Fake Prizes/Sweepstakes (22.76%). 

A new trend in 2013: a rise in refund and recovery scams, in which fraudsters target vulnerable consumers that have been put on a “sucker list.” These consumers have already fallen victim to scams and have been identified as easy prey. Con artists buy, sell, and trade lists of victims amongst themselves so that they can be re-contacted. Scammers using the refund and recovery fraud attack will pitch victims through phone calls and direct mail, claiming that they can help recover lost funds for a fee. In 2013, this was the fastest-growing type of non-Internet scam reported to NCL’s campaign.

Some good news: a positive trend in the 2013 report is a shift in how victims pay con artists. In 2013, nearly 35 percent of all victims reported losing money to a scam with a credit card, up from just 18 percent in 2012. Victims who pay with credit cards can more easily recover lost funds than those who pay via wire transfer service, the most common way pay for offers that turn out to be fraudulent.

“Credit card transactions are the safest way for consumers to pay for products since they have the ability to dispute fraudulent charges with their credit card company,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL executive director. “While consumers paying scammers using a wire transfer service was still the number one way con artists were paid in 2013, the number of reports involving a credit card payment nearly doubled. This is a sign that consumers are better protecting themselves and hedging against the risk of a potential scam.”

Read the full 2013 top ten scams report here.


About the National Consumers League
The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit

Communities of Color Symposium Feb. 6, 2014 – National Consumers League

Reserve your seat today! Consumer Financial Services Symposium on Feb. 6


Communities of color are too often victimized by predatory and unfair lending practices. The subprime housing crisis and ensuing economic recession have produced the largest wealth gap in decades between white households and families of color.


Join us for an examination of how many financial and other institutions have put communities of color at a disadvantage in the financial services arena, with a special emphasis on mortgages, auto loans, student loans, and telecommunications services, and a discussion of what we can do to address these inequities.


Expert panelists and speakers will meet for a day-long symposium in Washington, DC to discuss these important issues and their impact on communities of color.





Senator Elizabeth Warren
Congressman Keith Ellison



A keynote conversation between:
Edith Ramirez, FTC Chair
Mignon L. Clyburn, FCC Commissioner


Lunch keynote ~ Patrice Ficklin, CFPB


You must register to attend. Event is closed to members of the press.


Featuring other panelists from:


Center for American Progress
Center for Responsible Lending
National Community Reinvestment Coalition
National Council of La Raza
National Urban League


Sponsored by:


National Consumers League
Center for Responsible Lending
Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies

50 years after LBJ declared a War on Poverty, progress but more work to do – National Consumers League

In his 1964 State of the Union address, President Lyndon Johnson declared a war on poverty. Today, Martin Luther King Day – a day to celebrate equality, justice, and progress – we reflect on the status of struggling families. While there is still much work to do to ensure every American worker has enough money in her pocket to pay the bills, provide for for her family, and guarantee a stable household, we have made great leaps in the last 50 years. 

Johnson put in place a series of anti-poverty programs – VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), Job Corps, Head Start, Legal Services, and the Community Action Program the likes of which we’ve never seen again. These programs significantly tempered the impact of poverty for millions of Americans. Indeed, in the decade following the 1964 introduction of the war on poverty programs, poverty rates in the U.S. dropped to their lowest level since comprehensive records began in 1958: from 17.3 percent in the year the Economic Opportunity Act was implemented to 11.1 percent in 1973. They have remained between 11 and 15.2 percent ever since.

We can be proud that the legacy of Frances Perkins and the New Deal programs of FDR’s administration – Social Security and Medicare and more recently Medicare Part D which covers the cost of medications – have vastly improved the lives of elderly Americans: the most dramatic decrease in poverty is among Americans over 65, which fell from 28.5 percent in 1966 to 10.1 percent today.

Hubert Humphrey, a Minnesota Senator and the man who served as Vice President to LBJ, talks in his spellbinding book “A Public Man” about making a real dent in poverty with these programs. Sadly, the Nixon administration that came into power after LBJ’s reign dismantled many of them. There was a tide that swept over America that offered a few egregious examples that these programs made people “too dependent on government” and unwilling to work.  Yes, there are some lazy people looking for a handout; but there are far more who use these safety net programs to feed their families and get back on their feet so they can work and be productive members of society.

Today the biggest drag on the economy and the notion that “a rising tide lifts all boats” is that the gains in GDP have landed disproportionately in the wallets of the top 1 or 2 percent whereas in the 60s and 70s these gains were shared far more broadly. The number of union jobs that offer good wages and benefits has fallen dramatically. Unionization of the workforce today is at its lowest level since 1916, when it was 11.2 percent. Sadly, our labor laws do not favor union organizing and there’s been a steady drumbeat by the business community, including the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, against ceding any power to unions to organize and negotiate on behalf of workers.

So, the War on Poverty, though successful in offering relief programs to the poor, has been undermined by the lack of decent jobs and poor educational opportunities. There’s a little light at the end of the tunnel, however. I’m personally thrilled and delighted to see the wave of state laws increasing minimum wage and the bipartisan support from red and blue states alike in favoring these increases. More than 70 percent of voters in March of this year told Gallup pollsters they would like to see the minimum wage increase. By November that percentage had risen to 76 percent including 58 percent of Republicans supporting an increase.

If the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 is passed into law, 30 million Americans will see an increase in their paycheck. Providing an increased minimum wage may not be a panacea for these struggling Americans, but it will go a long way toward lifting families out of poverty.  It’s good for kids too, because they suffer the most when there’s not enough food in the cupboard. President Johnson had it right – we have to treat the problem of poverty in America like a war –and many strategies need to be deployed to combat the problem. With the recent gains in minimum wage in states around the country and momentum building, we may indeed be opening the next chapter in President Johnson’s War on Poverty.

Disturbing phenomenon: Rapid increase of unaccompanied minors entering US – National Consumers League

maki Imagine you are a child, age 13, 14, or 15. Gang members in your school are threatening to beat, kidnap, or kill you. They want money, but you are poor. They threaten to harm you and your family if you don’t pay them large sums of money. There is no way for you to obtain those sums. This is the situation faced by increasing numbers of teens living in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador as gangs spread throughout their countries. 

The kids are scared to death and clinging to a desperate hope: Escape their tormentors, get to the US, find work, and send money back to protect their families. Unfortunately, the numbers of these “unaccompanied minors” is exploding. According to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), which is alerting the public about this new trend, the numbers of children expected to cross into the US without adult supervision is expected to be 60,000 this year. This represents nearly a tenfold increase in the number of unaccompanied minors in just three years.

According to a fact-finding delegation led by the USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Services, there is a “perfect storm” of contributing factors pushing teens to leave their homes and attempt a perilous journey to the US. In addition to the fear of violence from gangs, these “push” factors include:

  • The absence of economic opportunity;
  • The inability of individuals and families to support themselves
  • The lack of quality education and access to education; and
  • The desire to reunify with family members in the US.

The USCCB held a forum on this disturbing trend on January 9th. Among those who attended was a consular official from Guatemala’s diplomatic corp. She told attendees that her country is overwhelmed with the number of migrating children. Since 70 percent of the kids are turned back at the US border, Guatemala is trying to identify funds to deal with the returned migrant youth. They would love to establish programs to help the kids stay in Guatemala, but for the most part the funds are not available.

Migrating teens often make multiple attempts till they make it into the US. USCCB believes that 30 percent eventually make it in, but they often incur significant debts to pay to smugglers—sometimes as much as $5,000 to $8,000. Farms and homes are being mortgaged to pay for these “coyote” fees. So when the teens get to the US, they are often desperate to find work and repay the loans.

The journey to the US is particularly dangerous for the migrating teens. Children are losing limbs as they try to board trains. Teen girls are especially vulnerable. Advocates believe 60% of girls are assaulted or raped on during their trips; nearly one in four become pregnant on the journey. Both boys and girls are vulnerable to being trafficked.

What happens when the children make it to the US? Imagine being here at a very young age and being separated from your family. You may not speak the language. You have no safety net. US nonprofits are struggling to deal with the services needed by this most vulnerable population. From our work on the Child Labor Coalition, we believe that many of these unaccompanied youth may end up performing hand harvest work in agriculture—a difficult, dangerous job. Most of these children will not make it into a school system. Their futures are very uncertain.

What can be done to help the incredibly vulnerable children trying to flee violence and dire poverty in their homelands? The USCCB delegation to the four source countries came up with several recommendations that include providing legal representation to the migrants, considering asylum for those children whose fear of gang violence is credible, having child welfare experts help assess the migrants when they are captured by border agents, and investing in prevention programs in the sending countries. The complete list of recommendations will be available at USCCB’s Refugee and Migration Service publications page soon.

Rates of tobacco use have drastically declined over the last 50 years. Another win for regulations. – National Consumers League

I recently wrote about the miraculous number of lives saved by tough auto safety regulations. Some states today are recording the lowest traffic fatalities ever. Why? Because of safety devices (seatbelts, airbags, etc.) and designs that were lobbied for by consumer advocates like Ralph Nader, Joan Claybrook, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, CARS,  and Consumer Reports/Consumers Union beginning in the 1960s.

Now I’m writing about another miraculous success story also related directly to a sustained public health education and awareness campaign. Fifty years ago – in 1964 – the US surgeon general issued a groundbreaking report on smoking and health. The paper offered definitive proof – based on thousands of studies -that smoking causes lung cancer and is linked to other serious diseases. Tobacco companies had spent years denying and obfuscating the evidence. Research since then has shown that tobacco can cause or exacerbate a wide range of ailments, including heart disease, stroke, multiple kinds of cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, asthma and diabetes, and can cause disease in those who inhale the secondary smoke – including wait staff in restaurants and bars and children of smokers.

This sustained campaign to discourage Americans from smoking –including high taxes on cigarettes, banning smoking in bars, restaurants, workplaces, airports, airplanes, trains, and other enclosed spaces, requiring smoking in restricted areas, curbs on advertising, banning sales to minors, penalizing smokers with higher health care premiums, and local and state programs for smoking cessation  – all have  helped to dramatically reduce smoking in the US.

I’m one of those who had a two pack a day habit so I know about smoking. It was incredibly difficult to quit – I did it four or five times for months or years at a time but got hooked again immediately upon taking the first puff.

I did finally call it quits and don’t dare come close to a cigarette today. Why did I quit finally? Lots of reasons, including that I felt shockingly short of breath when going up just a few stairs, the ever escalating cost, and the unpopularity of puffing away and polluting the air I was sharing with colleagues and friends. Not to mention it’s about the stupidest thing you can do, given all the terrible health conditions caused by and exacerbated by smoking. Thirty years after quitting, I also am happy to report that all of the six members of my immediate family who smoked back then have all kicked the habit.

So we are part of the success story. The percentage of American adults who smoke dropped from 42 percent in 1965 to 18 percent in 2012. A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association estimated that tobacco control measures adopted since 1964 have saved eight million Americans from premature death and extended their lives by an average of almost 20 years.

However, we still have 44 million smokers. To tackle this challenge, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the American Cancer Society, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids have called for a new national commitment to drive down smoking among adults to less than 10 percent over the next decade. The groups also want to protect all Americans from secondhand smoke within five years by having every state enact laws against smoking in all workplaces, bars and restaurants; and ultimately eliminate death and disease caused by tobacco.

The power of the tobacco industry is a challenge. It spends $8 billion a year to market cigarettes and other tobacco products in the US, marketing too often aimed at young people.

The industry also enjoys profits from heavy smoking prevalent in so many developing countries. My recent visits to China and Cuba underscored the ubiquitous use of tobacco around the world. Happily we’re spoiled in the US by being relative smoke free in communal places.

Meanwhile, back in the US, many groups are rededicating themselves to driving rates of smoking down to under 10 percent. Federal, state, and local government health officials are working alongside these groups. So there we have it – another victory for sensible regulation and here’s to the millions of lives saved as a result.

Flu diagnoses continue to rise; advocates fear misconceptions about flu vaccine will have negative impact on individuals, communities – National Consumers League

January 17, 2014

Contact: NCL Communications, Ben Klein, (202) 835-3323,

Washington, DC—The flu is now widespread in 35 states, according to the latest reports from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and a new Gallup-Healthways poll indicates that nearly 3 percent of Americans have become ill with the flu in the last month. With flu cases on the rise, consumer health advocates are pointing to new data on American misperceptions about vaccinations and why that is a cause for concern.

survey released by the National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s pioneering consumer advocacy group, reveals that over one in five (22%) U.S. parents surveyed admitted they’ve never received a flu shot, and only half (53%) of parents with children 17 and under have received a flu vaccination within the last year. The national survey was conducted online by Harris Interactive among 1,756 U.S. adult Americans, of whom 993 are parents of children under 18, in August – September 2013.

“According to our survey, only 44 percent of these parents said their child has received the vaccine,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director. “And 20 percent of Americans who do not get the vaccine say they avoid it because they mistakenly fear the vaccine increases one’s chance of contracting the virus. Consumers are clearly confused about the value of the flu shot for both individuals and for their community, and they need better education.”

According to the CDC, flu season has not yet peaked, with cases, hospitalizations, and even deaths still on the rise. The season has started later than usual this year, and, according to reports, the number of people seeking medical care for the flu climbed to more than 4 percent of all doctor visits last week, a near doubling from two weeks earlier, according to Associated Press. CDC data indicate that four children died of the flu last week.

The CDC recommends that all individuals over the age of 6 months receive the flu vaccine each year, with rare exceptions. It is especially important for people who are at high risk of developing serious complications if they get sick with the flu, including children under 5, pregnant women and those with medical conditions like asthma and diabetes.

“It used to be the case that medical experts recommended flu shots only for the most vulnerable groups,” said Rebecca Burkholder, NCL Vice President for Health Policy. “But because healthy people benefit from the flu vaccine as well, medical experts now recommend that nearly everyone get the flu shot. Vaccinations have, in recent years, developed a negative stigma, and this is preventing some of us from doing our part in disease prevention. Those who don’t get the flu shot put themselves and their families at risk of contracting the virus.”

Survey findings

The most common reason for not receiving the flu vaccine among adults who reported they have never received a flu shot was their good health (45%), side effects (29%), and perceived ineffectiveness of the vaccine (24%). Additionally:

  • One in five (21%) said the reason they have not received the flu vaccine is because they do not believe the flu is a serious illness.
  • One in five (20%) say they fear of contracting the flu from the vaccination is a reason they have not received the flu vaccine.

NCL’s survey also polled adult Americans about their perspectives on vaccines in general, not limited to the flu vaccine. Highlights from that include:

The most common reasons adults cite for not vaccinating in general:

  • Side effects: 41%
  • Ineffectiveness of the vaccines: 27%

The majority of Adults (87%) support mandatory vaccinations for school-aged children.

12% of parents of children 17 and under say they have missed a scheduled vaccination.

About the Survey

NCL commissioned this survey, conducted by Harris Interactive, with an unrestricted educational grant from Pfizer. NCL and Harris Interactive are solely responsible for the design of the survey

The NCL Vaccine Survey of 1,756 adult Americans was conducted with an emphasis on parents of children between 0-17, to investigate vaccination rates and opinions among the general US population. The survey was conducted online from August 22 to September 9, 2013.

Survey results are weighted to be representative of the US population for gender, age, ethnicity, education, income and region based on the current US Census.

The full survey report, including additional findings on vaccine perceptions, can be found here.

About the National Consumers League
The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit

About Harris Interactive®

Harris Interactive is one of the world’s leading market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for The Harris Poll®, Harris offers proprietary solutions in the areas of market and customer insight, corporate brand and reputation strategy, and marketing, advertising, public relations and communications research across a wide range of industries. Additionally, Harris has a portfolio of multi-client offerings that complement our custom solutions while maximizing a client’s research investment. Serving clients worldwide through our North American and European offices, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help our clients stay ahead of what’s next. For more information, please visit