NCL: Consumers should be able to access broadcast channels for free via Locast

August 5, 2019

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

Washington, DC—Last week, the four largest broadcast networksABC, CBS, Fox, and NBCfiled suit against Locast, a free streaming service operated by the non-profit Sports Fans Coalition NY. The networks’ lawsuit seeks to block Locast’s streaming of local broadcast programming. The suit alleges that Locast violates copyright laws by failing to compensate the networks for their programming.

The following statement is attributable to NCL Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications, and Fraud John Breyault:

Consumers can already legally obtain free over-the-air broadcast channels via an antenna on their roofs. We think broadcasters would be better off embracing an innovative technology that allows consumers to more easily access their ad-supported content.

To secure public accessibility of broadcast signals, the Copyright Act expressly permits non-profit organizations to retransmit free over-the-air broadcasts. Locast is operated by the non-profit Sports Fans Coalition NY as a free public service. NCL supports broad consumer choice for access to local broadcast channels.

This year alone, the four largest broadcast networks are expected to generate more than $10 billion in retransmission-consent fees from cable and satellite providers that carry the networks’ programs. These fees are largely passed onto consumers in the form of higher monthly cable and satellite bills. Along with advertising that networks and local television stations sell, retransmission fees support the production of critically important local news content as well as traditional entertainment programming. 

NCL and Sports Fans Coalition (SFC) have a history of working together on a range of important consumer issues. In 2014, together we successfully petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to repeal the Sports Blackout Rule. In 2018, we jointly urged the Federal Trade Commission to protect consumers in the live event ticketing marketplace by cracking down on deceptive “white label ticketing websites.” We have also worked with SFC to create a landmark “Sports Bettor’s Bill of Rights” to ensure that consumers are protected as more states move to legalize online sports betting.

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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 statement on White House pathway for drug importation

August 2, 2019

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

Washington, DC—As the nation’s pioneer consumer organization, the National Consumers League (NCL) strongly supports consumer access to safe, effective, and affordable prescription drugs. The recent announcement by the White House to open a pathway for importation of drugs from outside of the United States seems unworkable and poses safety and purity challenges.

Six years ago, the U.S. government enacted a safe system to “track and trace” drugs sold to U.S. consumers through the Drug Supply Chain Security Act. The law required, that by 2023, all drugs sold to U.S. consumers must have both a product identifier and a unique package code to allow Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and any buyer in the supply chain to obtain a comprehensive history of where the drug was manufactured and packaged. This secure supply chain system best ensures consumers are receiving medications that are not counterfeit or substandard.

“The recent announcement by the White House ignores the Drug Supply Chain Security Act and undermines the security of the U.S. pharmaceutical supply chain,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL executive director. “This new pathway for importation could easily lead to counterfeit or substandard drugs finding their way to consumer’s medicine cabinets, thus putting patient health and safety at risk.”

In addition to the safety risks posed by this new policy announcement, there are no guarantees that it will save consumers money. The proposal opens the door for states, pharmacies, and distributors to obtain the medications outside of U.S. borders, but it does not require that any cost savings from obtaining those “lower-priced” medications be passed on to consumers. So, even if safety concerns could be addressed, it is not clear that there will be any direct cost savings benefit to consumers.

The threat to public health is real. Counterfeit medications may contain the wrong active ingredient, the wrong amount of the active ingredient, no active ingredient, harmful ingredients, or even poisons such as mercury, road tar, or antifreeze. Counterfeit medications made with deadly ingredients have been found in more than 40 states across America, posing a significant public health threat.

“Allowing importation will only serve to exacerbate the challenge of preventing counterfeit drugs from reaching American patients,” said Greenberg.

NCL continues to advocate for more responsible strategies to ensure the affordability and accessibility of safe and effective prescription drugs.

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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 group calling on Congress to pass Hot Cars Act on Heat Stroke Prevention Day, July 31

July 31, 2019

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

Washington, DC—Washington, DC—Just days after the tragic deaths of one-year-old twins who were accidentally left behind by a parent in a car in the Bronx over the weekend, advocates pointing to today’s observance of Heat Stroke Prevention Day to call attention to a bill in Congress that would mandate new cars come with technology to prevent such tragedies.

The Hot Car Act would require that all new cars come equipped with an alarm system that reminds drivers to check the car after exiting. The bill calls for “a distinct auditory and visual alert to notify individuals inside and outside of the vehicle of the presence of an occupant.” This alarm will only occur when the vehicle senses a physical presence in the back seat.

Heatstroke is the leading cause of deaths in vehicles (excluding crashes) for children 14 years old and younger, according to Consumer Reports. Although some may believe that hot car tragedies could never happen to them, more than 900 children have died in hot cars since 1990, and 17 fatalities have been recorded in 2019 alone, according to safety advocacy group KidsAndCars.org.

“This lifesaving technology is already available, so why wouldn’t we expedite its implementation and allow children and their families to benefit from it?” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “Just as we have overcome other dangers in cars–kids dying in trunks, backover accidents, deadly electric car windows–the auto industry now has the technology available to prevent these tragedies. Kids shouldn’t pay with their lives when we can readily fix the problem. The auto industry can do something about this and should.”

The Hot Cars Act alert system follows in the tradition of other essential vehicle alarm systems that have become commonplace for consumers, such as chimes that remind drivers to use a seat belt, indicate that headlights have been left on, or doors have been left ajar.

The alarm system also has relevance beyond the summer months. Sensors and alarms in new cars will also prevent children from being left unattended in dangerously cold temperatures. The proposed technology would also alert pet-owners if their furry friend is about to be left behind.

These hot car deaths have happened for many years to many doting, devoted, and loving parents. Human beings make mistakes, but we now have the technology that can prevent these mistakes and help protect children, so let’s use it,” said Greenberg.

The Senate introduced its version of the bill in May, which was sponsored by Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Maria Cantwell (D-WA). 

The National Consumers League once again commends Representatives Tim Ryan (D-OH), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Peter King(R-NY) for their continued leadership on this issue and urge members of Congress to support this important children’s protection legislation.

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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.

DOT green lights more concentration, less competition in American-Qantas alliance

July 24, 2019

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), America’s pioneering consumer and worker advocacy organization, is disappointed in the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) decision to approve a grant of antitrust immunity to a new international alliance between American Airlines and Qantas Airways. The following statement is attributable to Sally Greenberg, NCL executive director:  

“In 2016, the Obama DOT found that an American-Qantas tie-up would ‘reduce competition and consumer choice.’ Less than three years later, the Trump DOT has decided that the American-Qantas alliance will be ‘procompetitive’ and ‘likely to generate substantial benefits for the traveling public’ in the U.S.-Australia market. We are at a loss to understand how allowing the Big Three airline alliances to control 86 percent of the U.S.-Australia market will generate substantial benefits for flyers. This decision is yet more evidence that the Trump DOT is intent on putting the interests of big airlines ahead of the interests of the flying public. The woeful absence of competition in the airline industry today has led to higher prices, poor service, and nowhere for the flying public to go. This decision only adds insult to injury for consumers.”

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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 heralds House passage of Raise the Wage

July 19, 2019

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), celebrating its 120th Anniversary of fighting for minimum wage workers, and author of the first minimum wage bills in America,  praised the  actions of the US House of Representatives in the passage July 18, 2019 Raise the Wage Act of 2019 (H.R. 582) by a 231 to 199 vote.  

“I just know that Florence Kelley is smiling upon us today,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL’s Executive Director. Kelley, NCL’s pioneering champion for the League’s first 33 years, wrote the nation’s first of these bills in the early decades of the 20th Century. “She had many setbacks along the way,” said Greenberg, “including when DC’s minimum wage law was found unconstitutional in 1918 by the Supreme Court.”

But she persisted, and today the minimum wage is recognized as both constitutional and necessary to protect the lowestpaid workers in America. NCL advocates for the $15 an hour minimum wage in today’s legislation and supports a long overdue increase to a wage that is fair, livable, and conducive to a dignified quality of life.  

The bill would raise the minimum wage–stuck at $7.25 for nearly 10 years–to $15 an hour by 2025, helping lift millions out of poverty. In addition, Raise the Wage will decrease the wage gap between minimum and median wage workers, as after 2025, the wage will continue to increase indexed to the median wage. Raise the Wage will also ensure fair wages for people with disabilities, who currently could make mere pennies an hour. The current exemptions for disabled employees is “legalized discrimination,” NCL believes. Raise the Wage has the added potential to decrease unemployment and reduce poverty, as shown by the University of California at Berkeley research examining the results of raising the minimum wage in the city of Berkeley.  

Democratic Members reminded their colleagues that Congress set the minimum wage since 1938 when it was enacted in the Fair Labor Standards Act. Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) called the Republican claim of federal interference “hogwash.”  

NCL congratulates and thanks the House Members who supported this landmark overdue legislation. “We salute Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for her towering leadership,” said GreenbergShe noted that the bill grows our economy and creates economy, increases families’ purchasing power and drives economic growth that lifts up all communities. Affording people a livable minimum wage benefits local economies, since workers will have higher earnings to spend at local businesses. 

NCL was founded in 1899 on the principles of promoting a fair marketplace for workers and consumers. More than a century–120 yearslater, NCL continues to work to ensure progressive reforms take place in communities and workplaces across the country. NCL is also proud of its history of championing state minimum wage laws. Our founder, Florence Kelley, led a campaign that saw 14 states pass some of the first minimum wage laws. Following those victories, NCL worked to pass the 1938 federal Fair Labor Standards Act, which established federal minimum wage. Since then, we have advocated – and will continue to advocate – for increased federal minimum wages. 

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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 to USDA: Portion control must be key strategy for fighting America’s highest-ever obesity rates

July 11, 2019

Media contact: National Consumers League – Shaunice Wall, MS, RD, shaunicew@nclnet.org, (202) 835-0331, Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242, or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL) presented oral comments to the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee today in Washington, DC, urging the committee to focus on portion control as a key strategy to address the rise of obesity.

“Unfortunately, while the current version of the Dietary Guidelines mentions portion size – it appears to be mostly an afterthought among the various strategies to improve diets and fight obesity,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “Portion balance is not mentioned in the guidelines’ executive summary; this is despite the fact that larger portion sizes have greatly contributed to the problem of overweight and obesity.”

Nationally, 39.6 percent of adults and 18.5 percent of children were considered obese in 2015-2016, the most recent period for which NHANES data were available. These figures represent the highest percentages ever documented and obesity rates are projected to affect half of all adults, or 115 million adults, by the year 2030. There are also substantial economic losses associated with obesity. The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the United States was $147 billion in 2008 U.S. dollars; the medical cost for people who have obesity was $1,429 higher than those of normal weight. 

“One promising, and we think underutilized, strategy for tackling the obesity epidemic is helping consumers understand and implement appropriate portion control,” said Greenberg. “This simple step to improving public health should not be marginalized in the forthcoming edition of the Guidelines; rather it should be one of the key points stressed by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee and form a cornerstone of the Dietary Guidelines.”

NCL’s full testimony is available here (PDF).

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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 statement on ACIP pneumococcal vaccine recommendation decision

June 26, 2019

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) presented testimony at the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) vaccine committee today in Atlanta, GA in support of keeping an important vaccine to prevent pneumococcal disease on the schedule of recommended vaccines.

“We commend the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)’s 2014 recommendation for coverage of the pneumococcal vaccine. However, we are disappointed with ACIP’s decision today that the vaccine should be administered ‘based on shared clinical decision-making’ in adults 65 years or older who do not have an immunocompromising condition. We think that ACIP’s failing to positively recommend the vaccine is a disservice to patients and is confusing to healthcare providers who administer these vaccines.” 

Nearly one million adult cases of pneumococcal disease are reported in the U.S. each year, resulting in 400,000 hospitalizations. Even in this era of multiple treatment modalities, five to seven percent of those hospitalized will die, and a large percentage of them will be seniors.

“We should strive to keep adult immunizations simple and accessible to ensure increased protection. This decision by the committee could negatively impact the perceived importance of vaccines and could compromise vaccine uptake, in turn posing a greater risk of infection amongst older Americans and those they come into contact with.”

NCL will continue to educate consumers about the importance of vaccines in protecting the public health and work to dispel the myths about the safety of vaccines.

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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 deeply concerned about Kavanaugh’s anti-consumer, anti-labor record – National Consumers League

July 12, 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 nation’s pioneering consumer and worker advocacy organization today expressed its deep concern about the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill the seat of retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy on the U.S. Supreme Court. According to the National Consumers League (NCL), this is a critical moment in American history where the rights of consumers and workers hang in the balance.

“After reviewing his extensive record, we believe that Judge Kavanaugh is an extremist who is out of step with American values and in conflict with our mission to protect consumers and workers,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “We are particularly concerned about Kavanaugh’s record on crucial healthcare access decisions. We can’t afford as a country to step backwards when it comes to providing care for our nation’s families.” 

On the issues: consumer concerns

Abortion access. Kavanaugh consistently votes to limit access to abortion services. Just last year he dissented from a decision to allow an undocumented pregnant teenager in federal custody access to abortion. Judge Kavanaugh wrote that the majority’s reasoning was “based on a constitutional principle as novel as it is wrong: a new right for unlawful immigrant minors in U.S. government detention to obtain immediate abortion on demand.”

Affordable Care Act. When ruling on Seven-Sky v. Holder, Kavanaugh dissented from the majority opinion on the Affordable Care Act, which upheld its constitutionality.

Contraception coverage. In 2015, Kavanaugh dissented from the Court of Appeals’ decision not to rehear a case upholding an accommodation offered by the Obama Administration on access to contraception for employees of religious organizations.

Net neutrality. Judge Kavanaugh dissented from a full DC Court of Appeals decision on net neutrality. Judge Kavanaugh rejects the idea that Internet providers should remain neutral. His dissent included the following arguments: “The government can no more tell internet service providers what content to carry than it can tell bookstores what books they can sell,” and “The net neutrality rule is unlawful because the law impermissibly infringes on internet service providers’ editorial discretion.”

Hostility towards workers

Limiting collective bargaining. In 2007, Kavanaugh gave the Defense Department a temporary win against its 700,000 civilian workers, represented by a union coalition led by the Government Employees (AFGE). Kavanaugh wrote that the 2004 Bush-era Defense Department law gave Bush’s DOD temporary authority to curb civilian defense workers’ collective bargaining rights. Dissenting justices said Kavanaugh would let the government “abolish collective bargaining altogether.”

Undocumented workers’ right to organize. Kavanaugh, dissenting in a 2008 case involving Agri Processor, Inc., a Brooklyn kosher meat packer, said undocumented workers can’t unionize under the National Labor Relations Act. The appeals court majority said they could. 

Right to picket. In 2015, Kavanaugh gave the Venetian Casino in Las Vegas a win in a fight with union organizers over the right to picket on a public sidewalk. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled they could, under their constitutional rights to freedom of expression and freedom assemble peaceably. The NLRB also tossed out the casino’s claims that the sidewalk, which was temporary due to road construction, was private property. The walk was on the Venetian’s land. “Where employers assert a private property right and ask the police to enforce that right against demonstrators, the employers are ‘seeking redress of wrongs committed against them.’”

“This is the most important Supreme Court vacancy in many years,” said Greenberg. “NCL stands with consumers and workers and with those groups who see the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court as a threat to our values and our mission.”

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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 https://nclnet.org.

National Consumers League statement on US opposition to breastfeeding at World Health Assembly – National Consumers League

July 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 (NCL), the nation’s pioneering consumer organization, is expressing its disappointment at reports of actions taken by the U.S. delegation to the United Nations’ World Health Assembly opposing a resolution meant to promote breastfeeding worldwide. According to reporting by the New York Times and others, the U.S. delegation demanded that language encouraging governments to “protect, promote and support breastfeeding” be removed from a resolution – introduced by Ecuador — that had been expected to pass without issue.

The resolution, based on established research about the significant health advantages of breastfeeding to both mother and baby,  encouraged countries to promote breastfeeding and “strive to limit the inaccurate or misleading marketing of breast milk substitutes.”

“The United States delegation, embracing the interests of infant formula manufacturers, upended the deliberations,” reported The Times.

The National Consumers League (NCL) has long advocated for the promotion of breastfeeding for health and economic reasons, as well as for policies that support women’s ability to breastfeed, including in public places.

A study from the journal Pediatrics found that breastfeeding could save 900 lives a year and billions of dollars if 90 percent of women breast-fed their babies for the first six months of life. Research has determined that breastfeeding could prevent hundreds of deaths and many more illnesses such as asthma, diabetes, ear infections, stomach viruses, or even childhood leukemia.

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

Breastfeeding has long been hailed as the best source of nourishment for infants, providing the perfect mix of nutrition in an easily digestible form and lowering the risk of certain syndromes, diseases, and allergies.

That the United States delegation to the World Health Assembly would be compromised by the interests of infant formula manufacturers is a disgrace – and going so far as to threaten Ecuador with retaliation for introducing this fundamental resolution is an utter embarrassment.

It is troubling that corporate or other interests might be undermining America’s policy stances on basic health issues such as this. We are disappointed at the U.S. delegation’s void in leadership but pleased that the World Health Organization’s long-standing policy of encouraging breastfeeding prevailed.

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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 https://nclnet.org.

National Consumers League statement on Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in Janus v. AFSCME – National Consumers League

June 27, 2018

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242

Washington, DC–The National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s pioneering consumer and worker advocacy group, has announced its disappointment in today’s narrow 5-4 anti-worker and anti-union ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Janus v. AFSCME, in which the Court ruled that unions cannot collect “fair share fees” from workers who have not joined the union but receive the benefits of organizing.

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

Janus v. AFSCME is the unfortunate capstone of a decades-long assault on working Americans who choose to collectively stand up to improve their workplaces and their communities and is the result of a right-leaning court that favors business interests over workers.

The potential harm caused by this decision is great and will not only be felt by union members. Millions of individual consumers who rely on government services will feel the consequences of this decision as public servants choose to leave in search of better opportunities and as the ones who remain face greater workplace insecurity.  

The Supreme Court today sided against working families. We call upon Congress to step in to correct this injustice. Powerful lobbyists may have won today, but in the end working Americans understand the importance of joining together to create better working conditions. While this decision is disappointing, we will continue to fight alongside our labor allies for a fair and just workplace and marketplace.

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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 https://nclnet.org.