President Obama continues year of action with executive order protecting workers – National Consumers League

July 31, 2014

Contact: Ben Klein, National Consumers League,, (202) 835-3323

President Obama continues his Year of Action today signing the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces executive order. This order will require that prospective federal contractors with contracts over $1 million disclose past labor law violations and will create a framework for how federal agencies should consider such violations. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that there are roughly 24,000 businesses with federal contracts, employing about 28 million workers. Most significantly, the order bans federal contractors from forcing employees to give up their ability to seek justice in court through mandatory arbitration clauses workers are forced to sign as a condition of employment. The executive order also requires contractors to provide employees with a stub containing detailed info about their pay, taxes, withholdings, and other payment information. 

The following statement can be attributed to Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League:

“Time and again, President Obama has demonstrated that if Congress is unable or unwilling to act to protect American workers, he will. Today marks another important step for increasing workplace protections. In order to know if they’re being paid properly, employees need to have access to the hours worked, including overtime hours, taxes, fees, and any paycheck deductions. This order will end the practice of employees being forced to sign mandatory arbitration agreements with employers. We commend the President and DOL for compelling contractors to treat workers fairly as a condition of getting access to federal contracts and being paid with taxpayer dollars under these contracts.” 


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


A SWEET Act that will improve the nation’s health – National Consumers League

July 30, 2014

Contact: Ben Klein, National Consumers League,, (202) 835-3323

Washington, DC – The National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s pioneering consumer advocacy group, supports the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Tax Act of 2014 (SWEET Act), introduced today by Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (D-CT). The bill has two original cosponsors Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA). This groundbreaking measure will levy a one cent tax per every teaspoon (4.2 grams) of caloric sweetener (sugar, high fructose corn syrup, etc.) on most sweetened beverages.

A tax on sweetened drinks has proven to be an effective strategy for reducing consumption. A 2014 study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that a .04 cent per-calorie tax on sweetened beverages would reduce annual per person consumption by 5,800 calories. Sales data collected from supermarkets across New York State found that this  .04 cent tax reduced consumption of beverage calories by 9.3 percent.

“A soda tax on sweetened beverages is one way to reduce consumption and direct tax funding toward education and prevention of obesity,” said Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League. “Incentivizing consumers to make smart purchasing decisions will help reduce consumption of soda and other drinks that are bereft of any nutritional value. With skyrocketing obesity rates among adults and children, these conditions and their ancillary health consequences place a tremendous burden on our healthcare system.”

The national obesity rate now stands at 34.9 percent of adults and 17 percent of children. Communities of color have disproportionately higher rates of obesity with 47.8 percent of adult African Americans being obese and 42.5 percent of adult Hispanics being obese. High rates of obesity lead to diabetes, heart disease, and other health issues which cost our healthcare system an estimated $190 billion every year.

Revenue collected from the new SWEET Act tax would be provided to the Prevention and Public Health Fund to support initiatives aimed at reducing rates of obesity and decreasing healthcare expenses from weight-related medical issues. 

In November, San Francisco, CA and Berkeley, CA will vote on imposing taxes on sweetened beverages. In Mexico, a tax on soda was enacted in January 2014 that imposes a one peso per liter tax on sweetened drinks, increasing the cost of a two-liter soda by about 10 percent. 


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


The unfairness of unpredictable and unstable work schedules – National Consumers League

Ever had a shift canceled at the last minute or been called in to work on your day off?

For 74% of adults in today’s labor market last minute shift changes are not rare occurrences. Work schedules in low-wage jobs are often unpredictable and unstable, making it nearly impossible for employees to plan their lives around their constantly changing schedules.

Last week, New York Times reporter Steven Greenhouse profiled workers struggling to find balance in their work and life responsibilities in A Push To Give Steadier Shifts to Part-Timers. Many of the workers’ stories involved similar issues: problems commuting to work only to find that there is no work, ever-changing shifts making child care an impossibility, and the constant worry of not having enough money to pay the bills.

According to the National Women’s Law Center, there are nearly 20 million low-wage workers in the US and 76% of workers in the ten largest low-wage jobs are women. While low wages, typically paying less than $10.10 an hour, make it hard for workers to support themselves and their families, it is not the only problem they face. Too often these jobs include work scheduling policies and practices that pose problems for workers with significant responsibilities outside the job, including caregiving, pursuing higher education and training for or holding down a second job.

“The volatile work schedules of today erode earning potential, push workers out of the work force, and exacerbate inequality, especially for women and workers of color who are more likely to work part-time jobs. For a fair paycheck, these workers need wages and hours with dignity,” said Carrie Gleason, Director of the Fair Workweek Initiative for the Center for Popular Democracy.

With some employers using “just-in-time scheduling” to lower labor costs, it puts workers’ schedules at the mercy of consumer demands and often results in employees being given very little advance notice of their work schedules. For employees this type of policy means fluctuating hours between full-time and part-time, the inability to pursue further education, and the uncertainty of having enough hours to pay the rent, utilities, groceries and childcare.

Fortunately, Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and George Miller (D-CA) and Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced the Schedules That Work Act this week in both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. The Act would help combat the problem of unpredictable and unstable work schedules. It lays out a modest variety of rights and protections for employees including: a voice in their work schedules, advance notice of schedule, protection against employer retaliation, and the right to report pay and split-shift pay.

Fair, flexible, and reliable scheduling is a simple way to ensure workers are treated with dignity and respect. In a perfect world employers would view employees as human beings with competing life demands rather than numbers on a spreadsheet. The Schedules That Work Act takes an important step towards that goal.

To learn more about workers’ scheduling struggles, please click here.
To learn more about the Schedules That Work Act, please click here.

NCL expresses grave concern about Bolivia’s decision to lower age of work to ten – National Consumers League

July 22, 2013

Contact: Ben Klein, National Consumers League,, (202) 835-3323

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s oldest consumer advocacy organization with a long history of fighting to improve child labor laws in the United States and abroad, decries the decision last week by Bolivia to enact a new law that lowers the age of work from 14 to 10.

“Ten-year-olds belong in school–not in mines, forests, and factories. Bolivia’s baffling action is a huge step backward and endangers the country’s 500,000 working children,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg, who is also the co-chair of the Child Labor Coalition (CLC), which NCL has co-chaired for 25 years. “In the last decade, the world has made remarkable progress in reducing abusive child labor by one-third, according to estimates by the International Labour Organization.”

“While the new law is aimed at ‘self-employed’ children, our great fear is that the health and safety of Bolivia’s many thousands of children in hazardous work–like mining–will be endangered as a larger number of children sent out to work by their families will be legally employed,” said Reid Maki, NCL’s director of child labor advocacy and the coordinator of the CLC. The U.S. Department of Labor lists nuts, bricks, corn, gold, silver, sugarcane, tin, and zinc as products produced with child labor in the country. Children are already doing some of the most grueling work in the world in Bolivia.”

“Bolivian government officials have said that they are unable to control child labor and that lowering the age of work will lead to greater protection of child workers because their work will now be legal,” said Greenberg. “Essentially, the government of Bolivia is surrendering. The level of exploitation will increase, and children will pay the price.”

“We also do not accept the argument that legal child labor is a necessary tool to reduce poverty in Bolivia, which ranks 70th on the ‘fragile states index,’ an annual ranking of the stability and the pressures countries face,” said Maki. “If 69 countries facing greater problems than Bolivia have not had to lower the age of work, surely Bolivia does not.”

“I’d like to remind the global community of the words of Hull House reformer Grace Abbott, an early child labor advocate in the United States,” said Greenberg. “’If you continue to use the labor of children as the treatment for…poverty, you will have both until the end of time.'”



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

Corinthian College is the first domino to fall in a misleading industry – National Consumers League

Its an odd thing to cheer when an institution collapses, but in the recent case of the for-profit Corinthian College – one of the country’s largest for-profit colleges – applauding what appears to be its downfall, is the right thing to do. NCL has applauded actions by the Department of Education and other federal entities to insist on transparent and accurate results reporting for these schools. 

The rise of the for-profit college industry, which largely recruits low income, military, and students of color falsely promise a solid education and good job prospects upon graduation when in reality, they have dismal records on both counts. For-profit colleges have been yet another example of industry engaging in predatory practices that target low-income Americans.

For profit colleges are dependent on students taking out hefty federal loans in order to pay the often sky-high tuition. Without federal loan programs, the vast majority of these colleges cannot survive. There are some exceptions – those students getting short term degrees to be a dental hygienist, medical technician, or other technical degrees may in fact get the training they need to get real jobs that pay decent wages upon graduation. But there are far more deceptive actors in this industry than good ones. When the federal government began tightening up requirements on for-profits getting, schools like Corinthian went into a financial tailspin.

Since January several states and the US Department of Education have been investigating Corinthian. NCL has long supported efforts by federal regulators to crack down on these schools.

Corinthian has 72,000 enrolled students and 12,000 employees. It has now agreed to shut down 100 campuses in the coming months. The school’s downfall came when it refused to provide DOE with data on how students were succeeding and admitted to the California attorney general Kamala Harris that it had falsified data on whether graduates were getting jobs, and had lied to investors as well. The company advertised rates suggesting that 100 percent of graduates were getting jobs when in fact not a single student had done so within the prescribed period of time.

The lawsuits say the school heavily recruited low-income single parents on the brink of poverty. In June federal officials put Corinthian on a 21 day delay for receiving federal aid. Corinthian said it would have to shut down because even a short-term delay in access to federal funds would result in its downfall.

Not surprisingly other for-profit colleges are lobbying heavily to weaken rules that allow them to get access to federal loan monies. These lobbying efforts should not succeed. While the Obama administration’s rules could be stronger, the current rules will help stop bad actors. Under the rules, for example, the program’s loan default rate could not exceed 30 percent – the for- profit colleges typically have a much larger default rate because the vast majority of students drop out or can’t find jobs after graduation and thus cannot repay their loans.

Most important to protecting low-income students lured to take out loans for worthless degrees, schools that lose eligibility for federal funds should have to pay back the loans and Pell grants themselves and not saddle students with this debt. Corinthian College, one of the biggest, is the first to fall, but others engaging in similar false and deceptive practices will go down as well, and that is for the best. 

Chicago Data Breach Victims at Heightened Risk of Identity Theft, New Study Shows – National Consumers League

July 16, 2014

Contact: National Consumers League, Ben Klein, (202) 835-3323,
Carol McKay, (412) 945-3242,
Javelin Strategy & Research, Danielle Ostrovsky (410) 302-9459,
Natalie Bauer, Office of Attorney General Madigan, 312-814-4947,

Attorney General Madigan and National Consumers League Address Online Security for Illinois Residents

Chicago – New research released today by the National Consumers League (NCL) and Javelin Strategy and Research reveals disturbing trends for Chicago residents who have been affected by data breaches, finding that 72 percent of fraud victims were also victims of data breach, suggesting a strong link between breaches and fraud.

Attorney General Madigan joined representatives from NCL and Javelin Strategy & Research Wednesday at 1871 to discuss the research findings and resources for Illinois residents to protect themselves from identity theft.

“The latest data breaches have served as a wakeup call signaling that government and the private sector need to take serious, meaningful action to curb this growing threat to our financial security,” Madigan said.

Also included in the research were findings that show consumers are losing faith in business to protect their identities and want more government action on fraud prevention measures.

“Data insecurity is leading to real consumer harm and this report confirms consumers are at a loss for where to turn in the face of this national problem,” said NCL’s John Breyault. “As consumers share vast amounts of personal data with businesses, government and other entities, they expect their information to be protected from malicious hackers.”

This event today in Chicago is the third in NCL’s’ #DataInsecurity Project, and follows similar events in Miami and Los Angeles which featured United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Wifredo Ferrer, Federal Trade Commission Commissioner Terrell McSweeny and Joanne McNabb, Director of Privacy Education & Policy for the California Office of the Attorney General.

“In this polarized political climate, it’s rare for Americans to express such agreement on any issue,” said Al Pascual, Javelin’s Senior Analyst of Fraud and Security. “But when itcomes to the security of their personally identifiable information, the respondents said with one voice that the government must do more.”

#DataInsecurity Project Findings For Chicago Metropolitan Area Fraud Victims

The National Consumers League recently released new research examining the impact of data breaches and identity fraud on consumer victims in four key regions nationwide, including the Chicago metropolitan area. According to the study, Americans are urgently calling out for government action on the growing threat posed by data breach and identity theft.

The study, conducted in partnership with Javelin Strategy & Research, shows that theimpact of data breaches on consumers is indeed severe: 61 percent of data breach victims who also experienced identity theft reported that the breached information was used to commit the fraud against them. What’s more, nearly half of all fraud victims – 49 percent – do not know where the information used to defraud them was compromised.

The NCL/Javelin study, which includes surveys of fraud victims from Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and Minneapolis, along with additional Javelin research on national fraud trends, found that consumers are calling for government to take action. A mere 28 percent of victims surveyed said the government’s requirements for protecting healthcare and financial data were “sufficient.”

In Chicago, 43 percent of fraud victims said their data was used to make online purchases and 28 percent said their information was used to make purchases in-person. Among fraud victims in Chicago, 72 percent had previously received a data breachnotification which is higher than reporting by victims in Minneapolis (66 percent), but is comparatively worse than in Los Angeles (82 percent) and Miami (80 percent) where the rates of data breach notification among fraud victims were significantly higher.

According to the new study, the consequences of consumer fraud have a serious ripple effect: fraud victims report losing trust in the businesses where their data was compromised. For example, 59 percent of respondents whose data was breached at a retailer expressed  “significantly decreased” trust in retailers who failed to protect their information. “When consumer trust drops, so do sales,” added Breyault, “This study is only the latest evidence for why the business community should be one of the most vocal advocates for protecting consumer data.”


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,

Should the word “natural” be banned from food labels? – National Consumers League

According to The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “natural” means…very little.  The only guidelines FDA provides are that foods labeled as natural should not contain added color, artificial flavors or synthetic substances.  These loose guidelines, which were put into effect in 1993 as an informal policy, are puzzling consumers and food manufactures alike.

So much contention surrounds the word natural that the Grocery Manufacturers Association came out in support of the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act introduced in the House last April.  The bill would require FDA to define the term “natural” for use on food and beverage products, finally providing more guidance for industry and consumers.

The issue with defining the word natural is that it’s difficult to draw a line where natural stops and artificial begins.  Take an apple for example.  That seems to be very natural as it grows directly from the ground and little to no processing occurs but would it still be considered natural if it contained synthetic chemical preservatives?  What about synthetic pesticide residue? Could a very processed food like Bugles be considered “natural” if it was made entirely from products originating from the earth?

Not only was FDA faced with a massive grey zone of “natural” definitions when they first requested comment on the word’s definition twenty years ago, but they also needed to protect first amendment rights and therefore could not prohibit its use altogether.  Ultimately, FDA took a hands off approach.  Labeling practices have become more contentious, with political battles surrounding GMOs and country of origin labeling, and the time has come to address the issue.

At the end of the day, manufacturers just want to sell their product. Consumers have come to associate the term “natural” with healthy food. And so, food manufacturers continue to label as many foods as possible natural to attract more buyers. The lack of a strict definition for “natural,” however, causes it to be used in a variety of circumstances where it makes unhealthy foods, look healthy or “good” to consumers.  Even if FDA managed to pull together a definition for natural, it would no doubt be abused.  Soda made from cane sugar or other natural ingredients would be deemed “natural” (case in point Seven-Up, which later dropped their 100% natural claims).  The human body doesn’t necessarily process it differently and it certainly isn’t healthy no matter how the ingredients were produced.

Soda is just one example of the many possibilities where natural could be misused.  The term “natural” should simply be banned from labeling.  It carries little to no meaning in terms of its perceived health benefits and should not serve as decision making tool for consumers.

Education campaigns improve safe acetaminophen use – National Consumers League

Untitled-1.jpgAcetaminophen is the most commonly used drug ingredient in America. It is found in over 600 of the most commonly used over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription drugs, including Tylenol, Robitussin, Dayquil, Nyquil and so many more. An estimated 50 million Americans take acetaminophen every week. When taken as directed, acetaminophen is safe and effective. Taking too much acetaminophen, however, can cause severe liver damage.

Acetaminophen is the most commonly used drug ingredient in America. It is found in over 600 of the most commonly used over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription drugs, including Tylenol, Robitussin, Dayquil, Nyquil and so many more. An estimated 50 million Americans take acetaminophen every week. When taken as directed, acetaminophen is safe and effective. Taking too much acetaminophen, however, can cause severe liver damage.

Consumer education is a key step to ensuring safe acetaminophen use and preventing overdoses. A new report from the Acetaminophen Awareness Coalition (of which National Consumers League is a founding member) “Acetaminophen: How It’s Used, Preventing Overdose and What We Can Do to Promote Safe Use,” explores the successful impact of ongoing healthcare provider and consumer-led education campaigns. Over the last three years many organizations have launched new campaigns aimed at educating consumers about safe medicine use. Among these efforts is, launched by NCL in 2014 to educate teens on safe use of over-the-counter medications.

The report found that consumer awareness about safe medicine use between 2010 and 2013 improved across the board. In 2010, 90 percent of people said it’s dangerous to exceed maximum doses and 76 percent said they were aware they could overdose by doubling up on multiple medications with the same active ingredient. By 2013 those numbers improved to 98 percent and 81 percent respectively.

Perhaps the most substantial finding from the new report is that consumer education campaigns do work and do help consumers be more informed. In 2010, 78 percent of those surveyed understood that, “exceeding the recommended daily dose of acetaminophen may lead to liver damage.” By 2013 that number increased to 87 percent. Many stakeholders from different backgrounds are working on educating consumers about the dangers of acetaminophen overdose. We must keep up these efforts to reduce unintentional overdosing.

As an organization that runs many consumer education initiatives it is great to know these campaigns truly do create a more informed and healthy consumer base. 

So…what is Acetaminophen?

Acetaminophen is the most widely used pain reliever and fever reducer that temporarily relieves minor pains and aches such as those resulting from the common cold, muscle aches, headache, arthritis, allergies, and premenstrual and menstrual cramps.

To find out if a medicine you are taking contains acetaminophen, read the drug facts label. Here’s an example:

When used properly, acetaminophen is safe and effective. Like any medicine, however, there is a limit to how much should be taken in one day. The FDA recommends a maximum daily dose of no more than 4,000 milligrams (mg) of acetaminophen. The amount of acetaminophen in an individual product varies and you can find the amount listed in milligrams on the medicine label. Exceeding the daily limit, or overdosing on acetaminophen can lead to severe liver damage or death. Overdose occurs when consumers take too much at one time or take a second dose before they are supposed to in an effort to help manage the pain. Using multiple medications that contain acetaminophen can also result in misuse or overdose. It is important to read the directions carefully or ask your health care provider before taking any medicine.

Tips to Safely Use Acetaminophen

  1. Read and follow the medicine label.  Reading the labels provides consumers with need-to-know ingredients as well as proper usage directions. Find out if a medicine contains acetaminophen.
  2. Talk to your pharmacist/physician. Become more aware and informed about your prescribed or over-the-counter medicines. Ask questions about allergies, proper dosage, and how often the product should be used.
  3. Never take two acetaminophen-containing medicines at the same time. Double check the label, and don’t double up on acetaminophen.

For more information visit, Know Your Dose today!

NCL applauding DC City Council for Wage Theft vote – National Consumers League

July 14, 2014

Contact: Ben Klein, National Consumers League,, (202) 835-3323

Washington, DC—Today, the National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s pioneering consumer and worker advocacy organization, is applauding the Washington, DC City Council for its unanimous vote in favor of the Wage Theft Prevention Act of 2014. The bill is designed to create formal hearings with enforceable judgments, provide better access to lawyers for wage theft victims, strengthen the District’s worker protection laws, and increase penalties for employers who commit wage and hour violations.

“This is another great step towards protecting District workers from a destructive labor practice,” said Michell K. McIntyre, Outreach Director, Labor & Worker Rights. “We’re hopeful that Mayor Gray will sign the bill into law to better the lives of workers across Washington, DC. NCL thanks every member of the DC City Council for standing up for all District workers, showing strength and resolve to do the right thing in the face of industry opposition. The DC Council has set an exemplary standard for city and state legislators around the nation.”

The bill now heads to Mayor Vincent Gray’s desk. He has three options: he can sign the bill into law; veto the bill, sending it back to the City Council for a councilmember vote to override the veto; or he can choose to take no action and after a set amount of time the bill will become law. 


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

Teen safety: Preventing workplace violence – National Consumers League

julie.jpgBy Julie Duffy, Child Labor Coalition Intern

No one expected 18 year-old Christina LoBrutto’s first overnight shift at the Pathmark grocery store in Old Bridge, New Jersey to be her last. Sadly, however, the recent high school graduate lost her life after being fatally shot by a co-worker suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). LoBrutto’s tragic and deadly story of workplace violence is not as uncommon as you might think. 

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), over 2 million Americans workers, as young as 15, report being victims of workplace violence each year. OSHA classifies workplace violence as “any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site.” The United States Department of Labor cites workplace violence as the fourth leading cause in workplace deaths. Teens are often the most susceptible to workplace violence because they are not properly trained in workplace safety and activism. Proper training, for both teens and their employers could save many young lives.

On June 23rd, David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, and teen safety peer educators held a phone press conference on how to prevent workplace violence. The panel stressed the importance of training programs about workplace safety. Such training programs can teach teens about identifying an unsafe work environment and how to voice their concerns to their employers. Training programs can also help educate employers on how to maintain a safe workplace. Under OSHA’s mandates, employers have the responsibility to provide a safe place of employment free from recognized hazards, including workplace violence. This could mean increased use of safety cameras, working alarms, workplace panic buttons, or the presence of security guards.  

Since 1978 the Susan Harwood Training Grant Program has trained over 1.8 million workers and employers about how to recognize and prevent health and safety hazards in their workplaces. This summer “Teens Lead @ Work,” a project of Massachusetts Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, plans to educate 540 younger workers between the ages 15-22 on workplace safety in Massachusetts. When it comes to ending workplace violence empowerment is key. Teens should feel confident in the safety of their work environment and comfortable addressing their employers when they feel their workplace is unsafe.