National Consumers League commends tipped worker protections in omnibus – National Consumers League

March 27, 2018

Contact: NCL Communications, Carol McKay,, (202) 207-2831

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL) is hailing a provision in the omnibus spending bill—signed into law this past weekend—that protects the tips workers receive and bans employers from claiming them. Restaurant workers suffer some of the lowest wages in America and depend on tips to keep their incomes at least at minimum wage. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta had previously proposed a new rule that would permit restaurant owners to pocket the tips of millions of restaurant and service workers—a shocking example of a legal form of wage theft.

Saru Jayaraman, co-founder and president of Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) — an NCL ally and friend who is speaking at the 80th Anniversary of the Fair Labor Standards Act conference this Wednesday at Georgetown Law Center—led the charge, working with partners and submitting more than 350,000 comments in opposition to the proposed rule. ROC and National Employment Law Project helped to organize testimony on Capitol Hill and rallies at local Department of Labor and National Restaurant Association offices across the country. Facing bipartisan pressure and overwhelming public disapproval, Acosta eventually agreed to work with both sides of the aisle to support the TIP Act.

“These victories are the result of intense organizing, advocacy, and—in this case—shaming those who were ready to hand over tips to employers,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL’s executive director. “Without this organizing and leadership from these heroic groups and key allies in the House and Senate, the Labor Secretary likely would not have changed course.”

Greenberg noted that members of the Democratic minority in the House Appropriations Subcommittee hearing March 6 grilled Acosta about DOL’s intentions on tipped wages. Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Katherine Clark (D-MA) introduced legislation after the Secretary said he would support a ban on employers keeping worker tips. That led to the introduction of the TIP Act of 2018.

At least $5.8 billion in workers’ tips, according to a recent study done by the Economic Policy Institute, would have been at risk. NCL thanks these members of the House and Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) for their work to get these protections in the Omnibus spending bill. 


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

Dietary Guidelines 2020: Back to the future for portion sizes – National Consumers League

Sally GreenbergWith 47 percent of the U.S. population projected to be obese by 2030 – and more than 2.1 billion people expected to weigh in as overweight or obese – it’s no surprise that governments worldwide have waged war on a health crisis which not only causes 5 percent of all deaths every year, but also has a $2.0 trillion economic impact annually. So what new measures can be taken that haven’t already been tried?

Is the solution based in advanced technology or medicine? Or do we need to take a step back and take a look at the bigger picture, and tackle a complex problem with simpler solutions by going back to basics? Research seems to indicate that portion control is one of the most promising strategies.

Advances in technology and entertainment over the past 40 years mean we are moving less. At the same time, our meals and snacks have been supersized. In its latest revision of the nutrition facts panel, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has increased some of the standard serving sizes for various food and beverage products to better reflect the total calories people are actually consuming. This could, however, send the wrong message about proper portions of food. And while there are some great nutrition tools and fact sheets available (see for example the National Institute of Health’s page on Portion Distortion), this puts responsibility on the individual to make the right choices. There are also initiatives about portion control from the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society.

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans discussed adapting portion sizes to help individuals make choices that align with the Dietary Guidelines´ other recommendations. But this was more of a passing comment without further guidance, and simply not actionable by consumers, health and wellness professionals, or even policy makers.

If real change is going to happen, it not only has to start at an individual level but also via policy based intervention and through corporate action. And there’s compelling evidence to show that portion size reduction, as a collective movement, could be the single most effective solution to an expanding problem.

The food industry’s own research – from the International Food Information Council’s 2017 Health and Wellness Survey – highlights this unmet opportunity, showing that consumers want to consume smaller portions as one of the steps to be healthier, however they are not acting on it, and are instead prioritizing value.

An interesting comprehensive analysis conducted by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) is worthy of consideration. The paper found that while education and personal responsibility are critical elements of any program to reduce obesity, they are not the only solutions. Interventions that rely less on conscious choices by individuals and more on changes to the environment and societal norms are what’s needed—an example of this includes reducing portion sizes of packaged foods and fast food.

According to MGI’s research, portion control, as opposed to other obesity intervention methods such as product reformulations, labeling, weight-management programs, surgery, etc., is the single highest-impact intervention for reducing obesity; and the most cost-effective strategy.

Has it been tried? Not really—there was a previous attempt that was never implemented when in 2012, NYC Mayor Bloomberg tried to regulate portions by proposing the “Sugary Drinks Portion Cap Rule” prohibiting certain places from selling sugar-sweetened beverages that exceeded 16-fluid ounces. While the intention of the regulation was not to ban sugar-sweetened beverages, but to assist consumers with portion control, industry succeeded in defeating this initiative – apparently the rule exceeded NYC Board of Health’s regulatory authority.

Since 2012, and despite the supportive research of reducing portion sizes, little has been done to execute an effective policy that would seek to ‘re-size’ all of our packaged foods and beverages to take them back to healthier portion sizes. With the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines around the corner, there is no better time than now for policy makers to make a difference. Consumers need and deserve a clear, authoritative voice to provide impactful and easy to implement guidance on portion sizes and portion control for all foods and beverages.

Happy 8th anniversary to the Affordable Care Act – National Consumers League

Janay JohnsonOn March 23, 2010, in landmark legislation, President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) into law. For the first time, Americans joined the rest of the developed world in hopes the law would bring us closer to realizing a health system where quality, affordable healthcare is available for all, and not a luxury for the privileged few. This sweeping overhaul of our healthcare system was met with mixed emotions: Democrats felt that the work of generations to see universal health care provided was finally fulfilled; the Republican party called it “Obamacare and railed about its many ills.

In the years since that historic day, those partisan sentiments persist. But despite a roller coaster of triumphs and setbacks, the ACA has been a huge success; millions had access to health care and in regions where pent-up demand was particularly acute – rural and urban areas alike.

The early leaders of the National Consumers League – from Florence Kelley to Frances Perkins – strongly supported health care for all Americans, so Obamacare was a fulfillment of our earliest agenda. And Obamacare, despite efforts to destroy its protections is the law of the land. The way health care is accessed and delivered in this country has been has been forever changed—most would say for the better. The ACA ushered in a new era in which comprehensive health coverage is finally within reach for millions of Americans who had been forgotten for way too long. And so today, this eighth anniversary of President Obama putting pen to paper, we acknowledge the ways the ACA has improved our health system. And we have no intention of going back.

Before the ACA was passed, the health insurance landscape looked significantly different. One in four Americans either lacked insurance or was underinsured, sick patients could be turned down for coverage because of pre-existing conditions, plans could charge women more than men for no reason other than their gender, and the cost of insurance was outpacing  Americans’ incomes. In short, our health system was about as lawless as the Wild  West. With the passage of the ACA, sweeping reforms not only outlawed many of the predatory and exclusionary practices that permeated our health care system, but expanded access to coverage and established a list of ten basic services that all health plans were mandated to meet.

Today, more consumers than ever before can get the care they need when they need it. Because of the ACA, nearly 20 million more Americans have gained health insurance. One of the primary ways the ACA achieved this was through the expansion of Medicaid, which extended coverage to millions of previously uninsured low-income individuals. The ACA also permitted young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26. Perhaps one of the most popular signature features of the ACA is the 10 Essential Health Benefits, including contraception, maternity care, mental health services, prescription drug coverage, and other services that all plans are mandated to provide. Other benefits and consumer protections we can thank the ACA for include a ban on lifetime coverage limits; the abolition of the “gender rating” practice, which allowed plans to charge women more than men; cost-sharing subsidies to help low-income Americans afford their coverage; the elimination of out-of-pocket costs for preventive care services such as immunizations, contraception, and cancer screenings; and a guarantee that an individual cannot be denied coverage or charged more because of a pre-existing condition.

Now of course it’s no secret that the Affordable Care Act has taken a beating. Despite a myriad of unsuccessful attempts by the Republicans to repeal and replace the ACA since its inception, the Trump Administration has made it a point to use whatever regulatory options are available to dismantle the ACA in any way it can. Though tribal loyalty within Congress has intensified exponentially in recent years, it’s time to put partisan politics aside and put the well-being of the American people first. Is the Affordable Care Act perfect? No. Is there room for improvement? Of course. But rather than tearing it apart, Republicans and Democrats should come together and strategize on how we can work together to strengthen and improve the ACA to better serve everyone.

At the White House signing ceremony in 2010, President Obama said in reference to the passage of the ACA, ” Our presence here today is remarkable and improbable. It’s been easy at times to doubt our ability to do such a big thing, such a complicated thing, to wonder if there are limits to what we as a people can still achieve.  But today we are affirming that essential truth…that we are not a nation that scales back its aspirations. We are a nation that does what is hard, what is necessary, what is right. Here in this country, we shape our own destiny.” And so even in these topsy-turvy political times, when it may seem that the protections we hold most dear are under attack and the progress we have made is at risk of being undone, we must remember that when we stand together, anything is possible – no matter how big, complicated, or improbable. The power of the people has always been stronger than the people in power and we have shown, particularly in the efforts to protect the Affordable Care Act, just how powerful we are. It is this spirit that vitalized advocates and everyday citizens to demand something better from our healthcare system, this spirit that saw the Affordable Care Act through to fruition, and the same spirit that will embolden us to defend it in the days ahead. And while we will continue to be steadfast in the fight to protect our care, today, we take a moment to celebrate how Obamacare revolutionized America’s health care system, provided access to health care for millions of underserved Americans in need, and has shown how fundamental it is for a nation with America’s riches to provide health care to all.

NCL statement on forced arbitration and autonomous vehicles – National Consumers League

March 23, 2018

Washington, DC–The National Consumers League applauds the Senators who signed a letter requesting information from Uber on its policy on forced arbitration clauses. This statement was attributable to Sally Greenberg, NCL executive director:

“The National Consumers League opposes the use of forced arbitration in both consumer and employment contracts. These clauses have the effect of protecting and even encouraging toxic corporate conduct by shielding companies from accountability in the event of reckless behavior or bad acts. We support legislation that bans these odious clauses and thank the Senators who have written to Uber asking for additional information on whether they intend to include such classes as they roll out autonomous vehicle technology.”

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, contact: Carol McKay,

MEDIA ADVISORY: Unfinished Business: The Fair Labor Standards Act 80 Years Later

March 21, 2018

CONTACT: Carol McKay,, or Katherine Shek,;

WHAT: The American Constitution Society and the National Consumers League will co-host a symposium at Georgetown University Law Center on the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) on Wednesday, March 28, 2018. Leading scholars, advocates, and current and former federal and state officials will celebrate the history and success of the FLSA while also building a positive agenda for how we can improve our laws to meet the needs of our 21st century workforce. More details on the agenda here.

Imagine these scenarios: children working with toxic chemicals, Americans expected to work 80 hours a week, seven days a week, workers making as little as $1 a day. This is what America looked like in the 1930s until President Roosevelt passed the FLSA. Enacted at the height of the Great Depression, the FLSA fundamentally changed the American economy by outlawing most forms of child labor, instituting a 40-hour workweek, and guaranteeing a minimum wage. Today’s advocates argue that the FLSA needs to be updated to fight back against the current assault on working Americans. Our panels of experts will discuss what these reforms should look like.


Fatima Goss Graves, President and CEO, National Women’s Law Center, author of 50 Years and Counting: The Unfinished Business of Achieving Fair Pay

Mary Kay Henry, President, Service Employees International Union (SEIU)

Saru Jayaraman, Co-Founder and President, Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) United

David Weil, Dean, Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University

More on the speakers here 


Wednesday, March 28, 2018 at 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. ET


Georgetown University Law Center, 600 New Jersey Ave NW, Washington, DC 20001

Gewirz Student Center, 12th Floor

RSVP please email Katherine Shek at


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, contact: Carol McKay,

The American Constitution Society (ACS), founded in 2001 and one of the nation’s leading progressive legal organizations, is a rapidly growing network of lawyers, law students, scholars, judges, policymakers and other concerned individuals dedicated to making the law a force to improve lives of all people. For more information about the organization or to locate one of the more than 200 lawyer and law student chapters in 48 states, please visit

National Consumers League statement on on Appeals Court vacating DOL’s fiduciary rule – National Consumers League

March 16, 2018

Contact: NCL Communications, Carol McKay,, (202) 207-2831

Washington, DC–In response to the news that the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) fiduciary rule was struck down, in a 2-1 decision by two judges on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League, has issued the following statement: 

“The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 vote with Chief Justice Carl Stewart offering a spirited dissent,[1] has issued a legally flawed decision that undoes a critically important Labor Department rule intended to protect the financial interests of retirees and other investors. Simply put, the DOL rule requires financial advisors to put the interests of their clients first. This seems pretty straightforward, but the Chamber of Commerce and other industry interests have consistently opposed this common sense requirement.

The majority misapplied the law, issued an opinion that conflicts with the decisions of every other court that has considered the rule, and discounted the dramatic changes in the retirement landscape over the last 40 years. The results could potentially cost retirement savers as much as $17 billion annually.

The Fifth Circuit’s decision is a setback for all investors, especially those planning for or currently in retirement. It also threatens the Labor Department’s ability to protect investors now and in the future. We urge the Justice Department to appeal this decision, put retirement savers’ interests first, and defend DOL’s authority to impose reasonable standards on those who make a living investing other people’s money.”

[1] Judge Stewart notes, “That the DOL has extended its regulatory reach to cover more investment-advice fiduciaries and to impose additional conditions on conflicted transactions neither requires nor lends to the panel majority’s conclusion that it has acted contrary to Congress’s directive.”


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

NCL statement on rollback of Dodd-Frank – National Consumers League

March 15, 2018

Contact: NCL Communications, Carol McKay, (202) 207-2831

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL) today responded to the passage of new legislation that marks the “biggest loosening of financial regulations since the economic crisis a decade ago.”

The following statement may be attributed to NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg:

“We regret that the Senate has endorsed a bill to roll back essential protections against ‘too-big-to-fail banks and other measures ensuring the stability of our financial markets. This move ignores the potential for reckless speculative activity by financial industry players who are too often focused on short-term gains and have no regard for the long-term implications of financial collapse for workers and consumers. We urge Congress not to repeat history and think about the long-term financial well-being of all of Americans, not just the financial services industry.”


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

The path to mental health reform – National Consumers League

By Stephanie Sperry, NCL health policy intern

Mental illness in the United States is a public health crisis. On March 7, 2018, the Center for American Progress hosted a discussion between Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray, covering the efforts of cities and states on the path to mental health reform.

Mental illness is not limited by age, gender, race, or geographic location, and proposed cuts to Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act will severely limit treatment options for those in need. Research done by the National Institute of Mental Health showed that annually, 1 in 6 adults in the United States experience mental illness. In the absence of national leadership efforts and support on the mental health front, First Lady McCray pioneered the ThriveNYC framework in 2015 to initiate an agenda for mental health reform, while Mayor Steinberg set about to change the delivery of mental health services by authoring the California Mental Health Services Act (Proposition 63) in 2004.

ThriveNYC aims to “reduce the toll of mental illness, promote mental health, and protect New Yorkers’ resiliency, self-esteem, family strength, and joy.”  It was built on 6 guiding principles: changing the culture of mental health; acting early with interventions; closing treatment gaps with wider access to care; partnering with communities to create solutions; using data better to provide accurate information and tools to City agencies, treatment providers, and others; and strengthening the government’s ability to lead through expectations of accountability and responsibility. First Lady McCray gave examples of current efforts, including the incorporation of screening for maternal depression during physician visits and training 250,000 people in mental health first aid. She explained that early detection is valuable, because 50% of the time, symptoms of mental illness emerge by age 14, and 75% of the time by age 24.  Early treatment can greatly reduce the long-term adverse consequences of mental illness, while saving both time and money.

Sacramento Mayor Steinberg called mental health the “under-attended issue in our time and in our society.” After both the Community Mental Health Act, signed by President John F. Kennedy in 1963, and the Lanterman–Petris–Short (LPS) Act, signed by Governor Ronald Reagan in 1967, failed to deliver on their promises to address mental health for over 50 years, Steinberg took action. He was instrumental in the creation and passage of the California Mental Health Services Act (Proposition 63, 2004). This Act imposed a 1% tax on personal income more than $1 million, with revenue going into the “Mental Health Services Fund”. This Fund aims to support county mental health programs and monitor progress toward statewide goals, with an emphasis on prevention, early intervention, and the expansion of programs serving affected or at-risk individuals.

In addition to dedicated funding, technology has a unique part to play in strengthening mental health reform. Mayor Steinberg noted the innovative work of Mindstrong Health, which uses digital phenotyping to collect biomarker measurements from smartphone use to provide information about an individual’s mood, cognition, and behavior. This can deliver insights to patients and providers, helping to diagnose and manage mental illness by establishing a baseline and spotting and analyzing deviations from it.

The discussion between Mayor Steinberg and First Lady McCray was a fascinating snapshot into state and local efforts to tackle the monumental challenge that mental illness presents in society. The National Consumers League applauds these two local leaders – and their counterparts across the country – for launching initiatives to improve prevention, detection, and treatment of mental illness, and laying the groundwork for better mental health outcomes.

NCL statement on ‘inexcusable’ United Flight 1284 pet death

March 13, 2018

Contact: NCL Communications, Carol McKay, (202) 207-2831

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL) today condemned the poor training and lack of oversight that contributed to the reported death of yet another beloved family pet on Monday’s United Airlines Flight 1284 from Houston to New York. The following statement is attributable to NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg:

“Incidents like this one are inexcusable, and every member of the flying public should be outraged at United’s callous disregard for the safety of this family’s beloved pet. Consumers whose pockets are already being pinched by billions of dollars worth of add-on fees should not also have to worry about whether their pets will survive a flight. United was right to quickly apologize and take responsibility for this shocking event, but more needs to be done to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. United should invest in better training for its flight attendants so that they follow proper procedures regarding the safe transportation of pets and other animals. For the past two years, United has had the worst record on pet safety in the airline industry. The Department of Transportation needs to take seriously the issue of pet safety on United and other carriers and conduct a full investigation of this and other incidents of pet injuries and deaths on board the nation’s airlines.”


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

Public interest groups’ letter to Congress in opposition of Moolenaar pyramid scheme rider

March 9, 2018

The Honorable Paul Ryan
Office of the Speaker
United States House of Representatives
H-232, The Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Office of the Democratic Leader
United States House of Representatives
H-204, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

RE: Public interest opposition to including Moolenaar pyramid scheme rider in the omnibus appropriations bill

Dear Speaker Ryan and Leader Pelosi,

Last year, the undersigned consumer advocacy organizations, civil rights groups, and academic experts wrote you to express our strong opposition to an amendment[i] sponsored by Congressman John Moolenaar (R-MI) which was included in the Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill.[ii] In addition to the undersigned organizations, the Moolenaar amendment is opposed by a broad and bipartisan coalition, including current and former FTC chairmen, commissioners, and bureau chiefs[iii][iv] and leading members of the direct selling industry itself.[v] [vi] [vii] We understand that this amendment may now be considered for possible inclusion in the FY18 omnibus spending bill. We urge you to oppose its inclusion.

The Moolenaar amendment, modeled after H.R. 3409, the so-called “Anti-Pyramid Scheme Promotion Act of 2016,”[viii] would severely weaken the Federal Trade Commission’s ability to police pyramid scheme activity in the multi-level marketing (MLM) industry. Under the guise of consumer protection, the amendment would blur the line between legitimate direct selling opportunities and illegal pyramid schemes.

For more than forty years, the courts have consistently stated that the critical difference between a legitimate MLM business and a pyramid scheme is that a legitimate MLM’s revenues must come primarily from the sale of products and services to retail customers unaffiliated with the business opportunity. By contrast, a pyramid scheme generates its revenue primarily from the recruitment of new members into an endless chain business opportunity. The FTC recently reiterated this concept to the MLM industry in an updated guidance report.[ix] As the FTC has clearly communicated to Congress, the agency already has sufficient legislative authority to effectively protect consumers from pyramid schemes operating in the MLM industry. As Commissioner McSweeny has pointed out, the Moolenaar amendment would fundamentally weaken the FTC’s ability to police fraudulent conduct by MLMs.[x]

Given these serious concerns, we urge you to oppose the inclusion of this language in the appropriations bill when it is considered by the House of Representatives.


Consumer Action
Consumer Federation of America
Consumers Union
Consumer Watchdog
MANA, A National Latina Organization
National Association of Consumer Advocates
National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low income clients)
National Consumers League
William W. Keep, PhD, The College of New Jersey School of Business
Peter J. Vander Nat, PhD, Senior Economist (retired), Federal Trade Commission

cc:  The Honorable Rodney Frelinghuysen
The Honorable Nita Lowey
The Honorable Tom Graves
The Honorable Mike Quigley
The Honorable Greg Walden
The Honorable Frank Pallone
The Honorable Bob Latta
The Honorable Jan Schakowsky
The Honorable Mitch McConnell
The Honorable Charles Schumer
The Honorable Thad Cochran
The Honorable Patrick Leahy
The Honorable Shelley Moore Capito
The Honorable Christopher Coons
The Honorable Bill Nelson
The Honorable Jerry Moran
The Honorable Richard Blumenthal


[i] House Committee on Appropriations. “AMENDMENTS ADOPTED TO THE FINANCIAL SERVICES APPROPRIATIONS BILL FOR HY 2018,” July 13, 2017. Pg. 37. Online:

[ii] National Consumers League. “Consumer groups call on House to oppose pyramid scheme promotion amendment,” press release. July 18, 2017. Online:

[iii] McSweeny, Terrell. “Congress should crack down on predatory ‘pyramid schemes,’ not look away,” The Hill. August 3, 2017. Online:

[iv] National Consumers League. “Former senior FTC officials call on Congress to oppose pyramid scheme promotion bill,” press release. September 13, 2017. Online:

[v] Vandersloot, Frank. “Anti-pyramid measure is really a pro-pyramid bill,” The Hill. September 6, 2017. Online:

[vi] Rosen, Eric. Letter from Herbalife to the Honorable Marsha Blackburn and the Honorable Marc Veasey. July 28, 2017. Online:

[vii] Bell, Jeff. “Direct Sales Industry Should Commit To Consumer Protection,” Law360. October 26, 2017. Online:

[viii] Online:

[ix] Federal Trade Commission. “Business Guidance Concerning Multi-Level Marketing,” January 2018. Online:

[x] McSweeny, Terrell. “Congress should crack down on predatory ‘pyramid schemes,’ not look away,” The Hill. August 3, 2017. Online: