National Consumers League

From the Experts Blog

NCL staff is hard at work for you playing watchdog on a variety of issues. Get to know the latest From the Experts!

Child Labor Coalition Hosts Guests to Hear about Sweatshop, Child Labor in China

by Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director

Two activistsCLC Meeting from the China Labor Watch came to Washington DC January 15, 2008 to speak to the Child Labor Coalition, a national organization of child labor advocates and activists lead by the National Consumers League. Li Qiang, Executive Director of China Labor Watch, and David Shih, executive assistant and translator for Li Qiang, spent an hour with the CLC. Li Qiang described how he came from a union family and worked in factories until he went to law school. He was able to experience personally the exploitation of workers in Chinese factories. Li began organizing and has been at the forefront of the workers rights movement in China, encouraging businesses to develop a legal framework for the enforcement of local and national labor law. CLW has produced more than 20 in-depth reports on a wide range of topics. One of the most controversial, released in August 2007, showed that between December 2006 and August 2007, toy factories in China had violated labor laws, including employing teenagers from rural areas in their factories. Toys associated with Disney, Gosh International and Hasbro, among others, were implicated.

Li Qiang noted that Mattel has a better record than most companies because in recent years its corporate leadership determined to make improving factory and worker conditions a priority.

The CLC also heard from Han Donfang, founder and director of the China Labour Bulletin, who spoke about his work defending and promoting workers rights in China. Based in Hong Kong, CLB has ties to labor organizations and finds that child labor is “widespread, systemic, and an increasingly serious problem in China.” CLB’s report, “Small Hands: a Survey Report on Child Labor in China,” is based on research carried out in 2005, and explores the demand for child labor and the causes, including serious failings in the rural school systems. Researchers for CLB talked with school teachers, labor officials, factory owners and administrators, child workers, and their parents to develop the profile of living and working conditions of child laborers. Han Donfang talked about the report, the research, and efforts to combat the exploitation of child labor in China.

Settling In, and Giving You the Inside Scoop


by Tim McNutt, Public Policy Intern

Public Policy Intern TimI met Executive Director Sally Greenberg, last fall at the Equal Justice Works Conference, and was so inspired by her energy and optimism, that I decided to take a semester off from my studies at the California Western School of Law to intern at NCL.

As I’ve been settling in at the League, I am awe stricken and inspired by the breadth and magnitude of issues that NCL takes on. Whether it is combating telemarketing fraud, child labor in sweatshops, or the latest predatory trend on dating websites, my new colleagues are zealous advocates for consumers’ rights.

I hope to continue blogging here, and will do my best to give you the scoop on what’s going on at the League.

Changing drugs? Talk to your doc!

by Rebecca Burkholder

For many of us, January is a time for change. New diets, new routines, new habits. For some of us, the new year may also see changes to our health insurance plans, which may mean facing the confusing process of switching from one medicine to a similar drug.

So, if you find yourself in this situation, be sure to talk to your doctor what you might expect to see the next time you go to fill your Rx at the pharmacy counter.

  • Why am I being switched? Is my current medicine working well?
  • Will the new drug work better? Will it lower my costs?
  • How can I tell if it is working?
  • Will I need to do anything differently – take it more or less often, at different times, or with or without food?
  • Are there any side effects? What about interactions with other drugs, dietary supplements, or foods?

In addition to asking questions, you should pay attention to how the new meds are working. Look for changes in symptoms or side effects. Keep track, and tell your doctor what you notice.

The month of January of NCL’s “2008 Consumer Calendar: Do We Have Tips for You!” has more tips, sponsored by Pfizer Inc., to help consumers who may be switching medications.

Time to Talk

by NCL Staff

Our friends at the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at the National Institutes of Health have just launched an educational campaign—Time to Talk—to encourage the discussion of use. Complementary and alternative meds (CAM) include products and practices such as herbal supplements, meditation, chiropractic care, and acupuncture.

AARP recently teamed up with NCCAM to survey patients over the age of 50, and they found that patients and their physicians aren’t really talking about alternative medicine. It looks like patients don’t know to ask their docs aboutTime to Talk alternative meds, and physicians aren’t initiating the conversations either. But this doesn’t mean that consumers aren’t using the herbal supplements, and other alternative medicines. The same survey found that nearly two-thirds ARE using it!

Hence, the Time to Talk program – put in place to try to initiate discussion between patients and their docs about what kinds of treatments they’re using or interested in trying. We at NCL are big fans of patient-provider communication, and we’re happy to help spread the word about Time to Talk. We’ve even provided a personal medication record for all consumers to get their medications listed in one place and help begin a conversation with their doctors – to prevent medication duplication, dangerous interactions, or a general lack of communication between doctors and patients. Good for you, NCCAM, and best of luck on spreading the messages of this important campaign!

Holiday Weekend Reflections: Honoring a Social Justice Hero

by NCL staff As we all pack up for the long weekend and imagine how we’ll use our Monday holiday (a trip to the outlet malls, cleaning out the basement, finally putting away holiday decorations, etc.), we thought it was a nice time to reflect on January 21 and why it’s an important day.

This coming Monday is a federal holiday to honor Martin Luther King, Jr., remembered for his leadership in the civil rights movement. Martin Luther King Day became a holiday at the insistence of unions, which King long supported.

Nearly 40 years after his assassination, King’s legacy of nonviolence and social justice lives on. We at NCL hold a special place in our hearts for King and other leaders in social justice over the decades because of our shared history.

NCL was founded more than 100 years ago out of concern for workers and consumers rights in light of the horrendous conditions of sweatshops. NCL’s commitment to social justice – playing an instrumental role in Muller v. Oregon, a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld state law protections against overwork by women, has remained over the years.


Today, NCL continues to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the U.S. and abroad:

  • Running the Child Labor Coalition, which aims to protect working miChina Labor Watchnors and end child labor exploitation. At a meeting of the CLC this week, we heard from representatives of China Labor Watch, a New York-based group that concerns itself with workers’ rights in China. (Pictured at right are David Shih, Executive Assistant and Li Qiang, Executive Director, China Labor Watch.)
  • Drawing attention to the link between consumer issues and fair labor standards
  • In our October 2007 testimony before the President’s Working Group on Import Safety we pointed out the link between recent revelations about lead-based paint in toys and reports of poor working conditions in the factories that produce them.
  • Playing a vital role in writing the first international standard on social responsibility, as one of the only consumer delegates involved

NCL honors King, the great leader of the U.S. nonviolent movement for justice, equality and peace, and we reaffirm our commitment to continue empowering consumers’ and workers’ interests through our education and advocacy efforts.