January 10, 2014
Washington, DC--As the National Consumers League (NCL) enters 2014 – its 115thyear – we remain dedicated to the mission of protecting and promoting the interests of consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For 2014, NCL has identified 10 priorities, not listed in order of preference, and all vitally important, that will help to shape its work, enabling NCL to fulfill its mission on behalf of consumers and workers.
1. Enact far more robust protections for consumer financial information from large-scale data breaches.
The Target and Snapchat data breaches have raised the profile of data security in public policy circles. NCL issued a White Paper in December 2013 calling for reforms to protect consumer information.
2. Help consumers be better informed about the minimal risks and tremendous benefits of vaccination.
A recent NCL survey found that consumers have many misconceptions regarding the effectiveness and health benefits of getting vaccinated. Many parents don’t vaccinate their children and don’t get vaccinated themselves, increasing the risks for all of us.
3. Move the federal bill to increase the minimum wage through the U.S. Senate and keep up pressure and activism across the states for higher state minimum wages.
The federal bill before Congress, the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, would increase the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and result in a raise for 30 million Americans. Polls show that consumers, those identifying as both Republican and Democrat, overwhelmingly support increases in minimum wage, and 13 states have raised their state minimum wage in 2014. Momentum to give those at the bottom of the wage ladder is building.
4. Educate the next generation of consumers and workers to be savvy consumers who will resist scams and ripoffs, manage their finances responsibly, and make wise decisions as citizens and consumers.
Expand LifeSmarts, NCL’s national consumer education challenge for teens, to all 50 states. In 2013, participants from 42 states competed online and in live competition. Recruiting new coaches in states without programs and introducing LifeSmarts to new students through training camps will bring our goal of championship teams from every state competing in the national finals within reach.
5. Protect children from harvesting tobacco leaves. Workers who do absorb the equivalent of 36 cigarettes per day.
NCL, through its work with the Child Labor Coalition, which NCL founded, coordinates, and co-chairs, is calling for a ban on work by children on this dangerous crop. Kids are not permitted to buy cigarettes by law; why should they be allowed to absorb nicotine from working in tobacco fields, some as young as 12 years old?
6. Ban the use of unnecessary antibiotics in beef, poultry, and pork.
FDA’s guidelines issued late in 2013 recommend that antibiotics not be used to promote growth in livestock, because the practice is leading to more drug-resistant bacteria that can threaten both animals and humans. FDA guidelines should include more specific criteria for when veterinarians can prescribe antibiotics. Currently, farmers are able to use antibiotics as a means of disease prevention when the animals are not at serious risk for disease. This loophole should be closed to protect American consumers.
7. Pass a Farm Bill that preserves the Food Stamp program and requires country-of-origin labeling on food products.
Regrettably, cuts are likely for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as Food Stamps, when a new farm bill passes. The House version of the bill includes $39 billion in cuts over 10 years, while the Senate version would trim $3.9 billion from SNAP over the same period. To protect low-wage workers and those struggling to recover from the great recession, cuts to SNAP must be as minimal as possible.
In November 2013, rules went into effect (called country-of-origin labeling, or COOL) requiring meat producers to identify on labels the countries where livestock was born, raised, and slaughtered. The rules apply to certain cuts of beef, veal, chicken, pork, lamb, and goat sold in supermarkets. There are intense lobbying efforts from meatpackers seeking to remove the COOL rule when a farm bill is passed. Consumers deserve to have the COOL rule remain in place.
8. Ensure that the silica rule is finalized by the Department of Labor in 2014 and implemented quickly and effectively to reduce workers’ exposure to dangerous levels of dust that causes silicosis.
In 2013, the Obama Administration allowed the rule to move through the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, the federal agency that conducts cost-benefit analysis, and now the rule is on its last step towards being finalized. NCL will testify in support of the rule before the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. First proposed in 1997(!), the new rule has been stuck in bureaucratic purgatory for 17 years. Annually, 60 workers lose their lives because the rule has not yet been passed. Current silica dust standards date from 1971. Workers deserve this change!
9. Improve medication adherence in the United States.
Pass legislation on medication adherence that would require the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid to create comprehensive measures of adherence for use by health care programs, test the effectiveness of specific interventions to improve adherence, and provide Medicare Part D plan enrollees and their health care providers a list of all their medications. Americans who take many prescriptions, especially older consumers, often struggle to take them as directed. To raise consumer awareness of the importance of proper adherence, NCL’s Script Your Future campaign is encouraging Americans to ask their healthcare professional questions about their medicines. Improving that conversation is a vital first step toward better adherence rates and health outcomes and lower healthcare costs.
10. Push for state and national legislation to address the lack of transparency and anti-consumer practices in the multi-billion-dollar live event ticketing market.
When buying tickets, consumers should have the opportunity to transfer paperless tickets to friends and family. NCL also supports legislation that outlaws ticket-buying "bot" software that can purchase huge quantities of high-demand tickets, preventing consumers from buying them at reasonable prices. NCL will continue its work with the Fan Freedom Project to expand the number of stakeholders working on this issue and to target arenas that are not transparent in their ticketing practices.
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 http://www.nclnet.org.