Time to talk about women’s sexual health

Sexual health is an integral part of overall health and wellbeing. Research has found that good sexual health offers a host of positive benefits, including improving social and emotional health. But far too often, women’s sexual health concerns are not addressed by healthcare professionals.


Although a survey of U.S. women found that seven in 10 have experienced a sexual health issue, a culture of discomfort around women’s sexual health often inhibits open conversation about women’s sexual health concerns even between clinicians and their patients.

In fact, surveys of U.S. women and healthcare professionals have found that each group often looks to the other to start a conversation about sexual health. A poll of U.S. healthcare providers by the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals (ARHP) and HealthyWomen found that 74 percent of providers rely on their patients to initiate a discussion about sexual health, while a survey of U.S. women found that 73 percent preferred for their clinician to broach the subject.

There are many reasons for this disconnect – from patients’ lack of awareness that their symptoms can be treated, to a lack of training or time for healthcare professionals to address their patients’ concerns, to a general discomfort with women’s sexual health among all parties. The end result is that women often don’t receive adequate care for important sexual health issues.

To help break down these barriers, NCL has joined together with other leaders in the field of women’s and sexual health to launch the Alliance for Advancing Women’s Health. The Alliance is committed to working together to help women advocate for their sexual health during clinical visits and to give clinicians the tools they need to ask about and address their patients’ sexual health concerns.

Over the course of the coming year, we’ll be working to raise awareness about the barriers to open conversations about women’s sexual health, and we’ll develop a discussion guide and user-friendly tools to help women and clinicians start and sustain conversations about sexual health concerns. In the meantime, you can find helpful resources from our member organizations at www.advancingwomenshealth.org.

We believe a sea-change is needed to make sure women of all ages and backgrounds have their concerns heard without feeling judged or ashamed. By raising awareness of sexual health issues and working to normalize these conversations, we hope to improve women’s sexual health and overall quality of life.

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day

Nissa ShaffiThis Saturday, October 27, 2018, is the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. This initiative is a national effort that aims to provide consumers with safe and convenient avenues to dispose of their expired or unused prescription medications. Failure to properly dispose of medications can lead to devastating consequences, as medications can become misplaced, stolen, or misused.


National Prescription Drug Take Back Day ensures that used, expired, and potentially highly addictive prescription medications such as opioids do not end up in the wrong hands. In April 2018 alone, national take back efforts were able to collect close to 474.5 tons of prescription medications.

The National Consumers League encourages consumers to clean out their medicine cabinets and participate in National Prescription Drug Take Back Day this Saturday, October 27, 2018. To find a drug take back location near you, please click here. Drug take back efforts will run from 10 am to 2 pm. To make phone inquiries, call 1-800-882-9539.

In addition to National Take Back Day, consumers can also dispose of unused and expired prescription medications in the following ways:

  • Contact your local pharmacy to see if they offer programs like in-store kiosks to collect unwanted prescription drugs.
  • Use a drug disposal pouch, such as the Deterra pouch, that contain solutions that nullify active ingredients in medications when mixed with water and sealed for disposal.
  • Mix expired and unused drugs with cat litter or old coffee grounds, seal them in an airtight container, and throw it into the garbage.
  • As a last resort, consumers can flush their medications down the toilet, but this method is generally not recommended as the ingredients in some medications can potentially corrupt community water supplies. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a list of medications approved for disposal by flushing when other safe disposal options are not readily available.

For more resources on how to safely and effectively dispose of prescription medications, please click here.

NCL welcomes federal food waste initiative

October 19, 2018

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL) is welcoming an announcement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of a new initiative to reduce food waste. The agreement is aimed at improving coordination and communication across federal agencies attempting to better educate Americans on the impacts and importance of reducing food loss and waste.

According to a statement issued by the agencies, U.S. food waste is estimated at between 30-40 percent of the food supply. This figure, based on estimates from USDA’s Economic Research Service of 31 percent food loss at the retail and consumer levels, corresponded to approximately 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food in 2010. Wasted food is the single largest category of material placed in municipal landfills and represents nourishment that could have helped feed families in need.

“We welcome this acknowledgement by the federal government that food waste is a problem that warrants our attention,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “The amount of food we waste—while millions of others go hungry, in our own country and around the globe, is shameful, and we can all do better. We eagerly await hearing more about the concrete steps the administration is recommending to tackle the problem.”

NCL has been an early leader on identifying reducing food waste as a priority and is a co-founder of Further with Food: Center for Food Loss and Waste Solutions, a virtual resource to share information about proven solutions and innovative new approaches to reduce the volume of surplus food generated, feed hungry people, and divert food and scraps to the highest beneficial use. In 2016, NCL hosted a food waste summit to identify causes and search for solutions to engage consumers on reducing food waste. In 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a national goal to cut U.S food waste in half by 2030. 


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 www.nclnet.org.

NCL’s experiences with Initiative 77, DC’s repealed One Fair Wage attempt

Earlier this month, DC City council voted to repeal Initiative 77 in an 8-5 vote. The initiative, which was supported by DC residents by a 55-44% vote, would have eliminated the gap between the “tipped credit” and minimum wage for restaurant workers and ensure that all tipped workers get the minimum wage that other workers are entitled to.

As it stands, tipped workers in Washington DC get a base tipped wage of $3.89 per hour plus tips. If workers don’t get the minimum wage—which is currently $13.25 an hour in DC—employers are supposed to make up the difference. Initiative 77 was intended to shift the burden of ensuring wage equality from consumers to employers, where we believe it actually belongs.

National Consumers League took a personal interest in this issue because of our extensive history with raising the minimum wage over the decades. We testified before the DC City Council in support of Initiative 77 in what was a marathon hearing that started at 11 am and ended at 3 am. In our testimonies, we emphasized the extensive history of the minimum wage laws unfairly carving out tipped workers, while stressing the importance of ensuring that DC’s most vulnerable make an equitable wage. Our testimonies also included the personal experiences of a staff member that has worked in various front-of-house and back-of-house restaurant positions at businesses in Oregon, a one fair wage state, and Georgia, a non-one fair wage state.

Supporters of the Initiative were, by and large, people of color or professionals with extensive experience in labor law or wage policy. The most vocal opponents of the bill were restaurant employees or small restaurant owners in DC’s most affluent neighborhoods. Opponents followed what seemed to be scripted testimony, arguing that Initiative 77 was a bad bill because it came from “outside of DC” or that implementing it would be the first step of a “grand plan” to eliminate tipping.

In our view, the public hearing showed a clear bias for those opposed to Initiative 77. DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson—an avowed opponent—led the hearing. Witnesses in favor of repeal were stacked onto the beginning of the hearing, while key supporters of Initiative 77 spoke much later—well after many of the councilmembers had left. Sadly, the council showed a lack of understanding about Initiative 77 and its potential impact on DC as a whole.

Opponents on the Council also expressed opposition to any type of compromise to Initiative 77. At no point during the hearing, did Chairman Mendelson or Councilmember Jack Evans—also an avowed opponent—suggest that they were open to a compromise or that they were willing to meet with groups to address concerns about the plight of tipped workers in DC. Mendelson went so far as to attack one witness from the Restaurant Opportunities Center’s DC office (ROC-DC) when he called the woman back on the stand and suggested she was a plant used by ROC to gather support for the bill. Despite this, ROC-DC and other advocates appeared more than reasonable, suggesting potential compromises; offering an extended timeline for wage increases, tax cuts, and others. Many of the council members that voted for the repeal—most notably Councilmembers Jack Evans (Ward 2), Phil Mendelson (Chairman), Kenyan McDuffie (Ward 5), and Anita Bonds (At-Large)—kept saying that 77 used deceptive language to sway voters. “The language in [Initiative 77] was misleading at best, dishonest at worst,” said Mendelson shortly before the October vote. Why? He didn’t say.

Yet the campaign slogan for those opposed to 77 was “Save Our Tips” despite there being no restriction of the tipping practice in the Initiative 77 bill. We believe that voters were not duped and that the bill passed in every ward, besides Ward 3, because DC’s residents wanted to better the lives of tipped workers. As Councilmember Robert White Jr. said in the public hearing, “[we] cannot assume that voters were ignorant after a campaign of fierce campaigning on both sides.”

Nevertheless, the DC Council voted in favor of repealing the bill. In spite of the sensible wage protection policy offered, the repeal of a measure that reflected the will of the people in the District Of Columbia, which is exactly what 77 was. Initiative 77 is another example of hardworking employees losing to big money—the National Restaurant Association spent millions to defeat 77 and when they lost that battle, persuaded the DC Council to overturn it—and ultimately being ignored. Voters showed up and overwhelmingly voted in favor of Initiative 77, yet the council responded by telling voters that their vote doesn’t matter and their voice is not important. What a sad day for democracy in our nation’s capital.

Thank you to the  DC City Council members that respected the votes of DC residents and supported the remedying of wage inequality by voting for Initiative 77.

Charles Allen (Ward 6)

Mary M. Cheh (Ward 3)

Brianne K. Nadeau (Ward 1)

Elissa Silverman (At-Large)

Robert White, Jr. (At-Large)

NCL statement on letter to USDA on E. coli – National Consumers League

October 15, 2018

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC-The National Consumers League (NCL) led the Safe Food Coalition in a letter sent today to the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) expressing concern over regulations related to E. coli control and prevention in the aftermath of two recent recalls of E. coli contaminated beef produced by Cargill Meat Solutions, Inc.

Both Cargill recalls are Class I recalls, the most severe risk category FSIS assigns to human food recalls. Cargill’s first recall applied to 25,288 pounds of ground beef products that may have been contaminated with Shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STEC) O157:H7, or the most well-known serotype of E. coli but did not cause any illnesses. Cargill’s second recall applied to a far greater amount of food product – 132,606 pounds of ground beef – contaminated with E. coli O26, an extremely virulent pathogen that is often grouped with six other serotypes known as the “non-O157 STECs.”

The recent outbreak linked to Cargill’s beef caused 18 illnesses and one death, underscoring the seriousness of the public health risk posed by non-O157 STECs. In the letter sent to Acting Deputy Under Secretary Rottenberg, NCL asks FSIS to amend agency guidance to formally recommend a “test and hold” procedure for all STECs, not just E. coli O157:H7, so that consumers are adequately protected from contaminated meat products before the product enters the marketplace. The letter also urges FSIS to discontinue the assumption that testing and safety protocols for the O157:H7 serotype are sufficient to control or eliminate the risks posed by the six other non-O157:H7 STECs.
“We are asking FSIS to hold all plants handling beef products to to the same testing standards that can capture all serotypes of E. coli. We are aware of two beef processors – Beef Products Inc, Inc and Costco Wholesale – who conduct “test and hold” for all seven serotypes of E. coli, beyond the minimum standard for just E. coli O157:H7 as FSIS currently requires. A large entity like Cargill should also be required to do the same.” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. 

Read the letter 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 www.nclnet.org.

Consumer watchdog group to present 45th annual Trumpeter award to Senators Duckworth, Markey on Tuesday, 10/16

October 15, 2018

Identity Theft Resource Center’s Eva Casey Velasquez to receive grassroots activism award 

Media contacts: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC— The National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s pioneering consumer and worker advocacy organization, has announced it will honor Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) with its highest honor, the Trumpeter Award, on Tuesday, October 16 in Washington, DC.

In addition to the Trumpeter Award, NCL will the honor Eva Casey Velasquez, President and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center, with the 2018 Florence Kelley Consumer Leadership Award.


What: National Consumers League’s 2018 Trumpeter Awards
When: Tuesday, October 16, 2018
7 pm Dinner and Presentation of Awards
Where: Marriott Marquis | Liberty Ballroom
901 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001

This year marks the 45th anniversary year of the Trumpeter Award, which honors leaders in the fight for consumer and worker rights. Past honorees include: Senator Ted Kennedy, the award’s inaugural recipient, as well as Labor Secretaries Hilda Solis, Robert Reich, and Alexis Herman, Senators Carl Levin and Paul Wellstone, Delores Huerta of the United Farm Workers, and other honored consumer and labor leaders. Last year’s recipients were the legendary social justice leader Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and then-Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Richard Cordray.

“Senator Tammy Duckworth embodies America’s best values throughout her career, as an Iraq War Veteran, a Purple Heart recipient, and former Assistant Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “She is an inspirational leader and justice-minded policymaker on civil rights, standing up for immigrants and veterans, and speaking out on behalf of consumers on healthcare and justice reform. We are thrilled to honor her this October with this historic award.”

“For nearly five decades, Senator Ed Markey’s leadership has been a model for Americans of all generations,” said Greenberg. “Whether on issues dealing with commerce, protecting the environment, or in defense of privacy, healthcare, and cybersecurity, his commitment to policy that serves consumers and workers is exemplary.”

“Eva Casey Velasquez’s leadership at the Identity Theft Resource Center and her commitment to broadening public education and awareness about important issues that affect almost every consumer have earned her this year’s Florence Kelley Consumer Leadership Award,” said John Breyault, NCL vice president on public policy, telecommunications and fraud. “Velasquez’s work has helped to put consumers at the center of ID theft prevention, and we are delighted to present her with this award to honor her commitment to consumer education and protection.”

This year’s Trumpeter Awards will feature a reception, dinner, and speaking appearances by NCL leadership and the honorees, as well as Maria Cardona, CNN/CNNE Commentator & Principal of Dewey Square Group. To learn more, visit nclnet.org/about-ncl/trumpeter-awards_awards.

Members of the media are welcome to attend this event but must RSVP. For questions or to RSVP: Call Carol McKay, (724) 799-5392 or Taun Sterling, (202) 207-2832


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 www.nclnet.org.

Women’s health experts launch the Alliance for Advancing Women’s Health

October 9, 2018

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC–The National Consumers League is pleased to join with other leading national women’s health and sexual health organizations in announcing the launch of the Alliance for Advancing Women’s Health (AAWH), a new collaborative initiative to advance women’s sexual healthcare by improving the interaction between clinicians and patients about sexual health.

Through AAWH, made possible with support from AMAG Pharmaceuticals, Inc., member organizations will work together to empower women with information to seek better sexual healthcare. AAWH will also work to increase healthcare providers’ understanding of women’s sexual health needs to better address their patients’ sexual health concerns.

“Women’s sexual health is critically important to a woman’s overall health, and it can help to improve social and emotional wellness. But too often, women’s sexual health concerns go unaddressed,” said AAWH Co-Chair Sally Greenberg, Executive Director, National Consumers League. “As women’s health experts and advocates, we know that cultural discomfort with the topic of sexual health, as well as limited clinician time and training, contribute to a lack of dialogue and through this alliance we will seek to change that.”

A survey of U.S. women found that about seven in 10 had experienced a sexual health issue. Despite the reported prevalence of sexual health concerns, a culture of discomfort around women’s sexual health often inhibits open conversation about women’s sexual health even in a healthcare professional’s office. Surveys of patients and healthcare professionals found that most women (73%) preferred their clinician to broach the topic of sexual health, while most clinicians (74%) relied on their patients to initiate the conversation. AAWH members will volunteer their time and expertise to help bridge this gap and improve women’s sexual health outcomes.

“For too long, women and their clinicians have not had open conversations about sexual health concerns, to the detriment of women’s physical, mental, emotional and social wellbeing,” said AAWH Co-Chair Sheryl Kingsberg, PhD, President, North American Menopause Society and Division Chief of Behavioral Medicine, University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. “AAWH will work with clinicians and women across the country to foster an open dialogue and to advance sexual health care for women everywhere.”

Learn more about AAWH at https://advancingwomenshealth.org/.


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 www.nclnet.org.

National Consumers League statement on Senate passage of FAA Reauthorization Bill

October 4, 2018

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC–Yesterday’s vote by Congress to send the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill to President Trump’s desk represents a missed opportunity to address the lack of competition and rampant abuse of add-on fees by the nation’s biggest airlines, said the National Consumers League. The inclusion of some new consumer protections in the bill particularly the prohibition on involuntary bumping and minimum seat size standards, promises to improve consumers’ experience in the air. However, the omission of the bipartisan FAIR Fees Act language in the bill, a provision that would have helped consumers who are being gouged to the tune of $2.9 billion a year, will hurt consumers for years to come. Congress’ inaction on the FAIR Fees Act is a significant setback for the flying public.

The following statement is attributable to NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg:

“The FAA Reauthorization Act will not protect consumers from unreasonable change and cancelation fees as we had hoped. However, it can protect consumers from shrinking seat sizes that hamper evacuations and contribute to deep vein thrombosis.

“Much of the advocacy around airline consumer protection will now turn to the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the FAA, which, as a result of this bill, will craft rules on issues such as minimum seat size standards, involuntary bumping, consumer complaint handling, and fee refunds. We urge Chairman Chao and Acting Administrator Elwell to listen to consumers, not just the legions of airlines lobbyists as it begins these important rulemaking proceedings.”


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 www.nclnet.org.

Facebook’s breach is news, but Congress’ lack of action on data security is the bigger story

Last week, Facebook announced that they suffered a data breach affecting a reported 50 million users. Coming just over a year to the date from an even larger data breach at Equifax, which affected 146 million consumers, we have to ask: Why is Congress continuing to dither on data security legislation that NCL and others have long called for?

Given Facebook’s high profile and the fallout from the earlier Cambridge Analytica scandal, it’s unsurprising that a breach there would generate headlines. At this point, however, there seem to be more unknowns than knowns when it comes to Facebook’s breach. Statements from Facebook officials have acknowledged that the attack initiated in July 2017. To their credit, executives at Facebook were quick to notify the public after they discovered the breach last week.

Although many, if not most of the facts about the breach are yet to be released, Facebook has stated that the attackers took advantage of three separate, but related vulnerabilities to compromise user “access tokens,” allowing the attackers to take over users’ Facebook profiles.

Many security professionals were concerned that the compromised access tokens might be used to log in to third-party services using the “Login with Facebook” tool that many users are probably familiar with. Fortunately, Facebook recently posted in their newsroom that they have yet to find any evidence that the attackers hacked third-party accounts linked to Facebook log-ins.

In terms of cleanup, Facebook has said that they have fixed the vulnerabilities that attackers utilized and have reset users’ profiles to further secure users’ information. Additionally, Facebook stated that they are establishing tools for developers to manually identify breached accounts and subsequently log them out for security purposes. Despite these steps taken, some are calling for a regulatory fine. Considering the E.U.’s recent General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), some are speculating that this will be the first data breach under the new regulation. While Facebook notified the Irish DPC of the breach within 72 hours of finding out, the social media titan has to show that they took appropriate steps in protecting user data.

Admittedly, the facts of the Facebook data breach are still coming in; however, one fact is clear: companies like Facebook, Equifax, and the countless other businesses profit by collecting consumers’ data on a massive scale. The collection and use of such huge amounts of personal data creates an inescapable risk to consumers that the data will fall into the wrong hands. That is why comprehensive data security legislation is so urgently needed.

Many of the components of an effective data security bill already exist in state laws in places like California and in the European General Data Protection Regulation. These regulations should be viewed as benchmarks for how companies’ data security practices should be regulated. NCL has endorsed legislation like Senator Patrick Leahy’s Consumer Privacy Protection Act. The Leahy bill not only protects broad categories of data, but it also refrains from preempting stronger state laws that already exist.

The Internet became the phenomenal engine for growth and innovation it is because users felt comfortable sharing their information online. Every time a data breach occurs, the basic trust that created that success is eroded. The only question that remains, will Congress wait until there is no trust left to act? Or will our elected leaders only take real action when it’s too late?

National Consumers League disappointed by DC City Council’s overturning of popular vote

October 4, 2018

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC–The National Consumers League (NCL) is deeply disappointed by the DC City Council’s vote to overturn a ballot measure voters approved in June to raise the minimum wage for restaurant servers and other tipped workers in the District of Columbia.

On Tuesday, the city council voted 8 to 5 in favor of repealing the measure, and now it’s up to Mayor Muriel Bowser to either veto or sign the bill. In the past, Bowser has expressed opposition to Initiative 77. The initiative requires DC businesses to eventually pay the full $15 local minimum wage to restaurant servers, bartenders, valets, and other workers who earn most of their income from customers’ tips.

“Abolishing a low minimum wage for tipped workers would give a much-needed boost to low-income families who barely earn enough to make ends meet,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. The national consumer and worker advocacy organization is headquartered in Washington, DC, where some of its staff has been involved in advocacy efforts to ensure that DC residents’ voices were heard on the issue.

Businesses in the city can currently pay tipped workers as little as $3.89 per hour as long as workers make enough money in tips to earn the full minimum wage. (The city’s regular minimum wage is currently $13.25 but will reach $15 by 2020.) If their tips aren’t enough, employers are supposed to pay the difference.

Despite being approved by voters in the June primary, the measure sparked fierce opposition from the local restaurant industry, which claimed that such a move would drive away small businesses and force restaurants to slash jobs.

Despite all the hype surrounding the potential negative impacts of Initiative 77, it’s unlikely to have drastic consequences. Based on available research, customers would likely pay a little more for their meals and tip slightly less. However, workers would see a modest income boost, which would help DC’s most vulnerable communities become less financially fragile.

“The fate of Initiative 77 represents a crucial test for the national movement to raise wages for low-wage workers,” said Greenberg. “Prospects may be bleak for this voter-approved ballot initiative, but our fight for equitable wages will continue.”


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 www.nclnet.org.