National Consumers League

From New World Encyclopedia

The National Consumers League (NCL), founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. The NCL is a private, nonprofit advocacy group representing consumers on marketplace and workplace issues. They have initiated and lobbied for many different consumer and work improvements, and have recently turned to identifying fraudulent schemes in order to better protect consumers. They maintain many different consumer support websites and release annual publications on relevant social issues.

Despite increasing globalization of the market place since its inception, the issues that the NCL addresses remain essentially the same. These include how to eliminate child labor, how to ensure the safety of our food, and what is a fair minimum wage for workers. These are noble goals, and the NCL's work is a direct contribution to a better society that has concern for the happiness and prosperity of all.


According to the National Consumers League (NCL) mission statement, the League promotes social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. They are a private, nonprofit advocacy group representing on marketplace and workplace issues. They are also the nation's oldest consumer organization.[1]

The National Consumers League's central goal since its inception was the lobbying for safe working conditions. This, the NCL suggests, leads to improved productivity and output for the consumer, benefiting both workers and the consumers:

The working conditions we accept for our fellow citizens should be reflected by our purchases. At the same time, consumers should demand safety and reliability from the goods and services we buy.[2]

To accomplish its goals, the League began labeling products that had passed their inspections, encouraging consumers to purchase only those products that had the NCL label. The NCL also provides different businesses and government organizations with the perspective of the consumer on concerns such as child labor and food safety, as well as medical information.[3]


During the late nineteenth century, consumers leagues began to emerge in many states, and in 1899 social justice leaders Jane Addams and Josephine Lowell chartered the National Consumers League in New York City. Florence Kelley was its first executive secretary. She established the direction of the organization through its motto: "To live means to buy, to buy means to have power, to have power means to have responsibility."[4]

During the early twentieth century, the league exposed terrible conditions in sweatshops and championed workers' rights. The league sought to protect and promote those in society who had no legal or social protection. They also pushed for stricter inspections of produce and supported the Pure Food and Drug Act. Kelley led the League for the first thirty-three years of its operation, later joined by League Director Katherine Wiley and Louis Brandeis.[5]

Following Kelley's death, the League struggled to maintain its organization while searching for new leadership. Lucy Randolph Mason directed the organization until 1938, and Mary Dublin followed her serving until 1940. During this period, the League was successful in lobbying for the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. It addressed many of the issues the League had called for since it was conceived, namely minimum wage laws and child labor laws. The League also, during this time period, called for national health insurance and social security legislation.[6]

From the early 1940s to the late 1950s, Elizabeth Magee directed the League and moved the main offices to Cleveland, Ohio. She shifted the focus of the organization slightly to campaign for disability coverage under social security and work-related accident compensation.At the end of 1958, the NCL moved to Washington D.C.[7]

Throughout the 1960s, the League focused more on consumer issues and protection. This was done under the tenure of Vera Waltman and Sarah Newman who both served as directors for the League. Their issues included medicare, medicaid, food products, treatment, and ingredients. The 1970s and 1980s followed this trend under the direction of Sandra Willett. Willett helped jump start the Assertive Consumer project which sought to educate consumers as to what they were buying not just with consumable items, but with many household products as well. They also pushed consumers to become more active in their government to ensure safety for products in the marketplace.

The 1980s saw the creation of a Consumer Health Care Conference by director Barbara Warden. Warden launched many pamphlets on healthcare education and created a medicare education program. During the late eighties, under the direction of Linda Golodner, the NCL established the Alliance Against Fraud in Telemarketing, which later evolved into the National Fraud Information Center to assist consumers who suspect fraud in their businesses, investments, or products. Golodner also helped establish the Child Labor Coalition.

Current Activities

Entering the twenty-first century, the NCL continued to address the same social issues as at its founding, although increasing globalization had expanded the markets for both consumers and producers.

Internet fraud and underpaid sweatshop workers have become the main focus of the NCL.[8] The NCL maintains two major websites for the NCL itself and for its fraud center. The organization still supports disenfranchised workers and workers rights, and consumer protection remains a vital concern. The League also works to shut down sweatshops that sell to popular apparel businesses and works closely with the Apparel Industry Partnership and the Fair Labor Association.


Health Publications:

  • Choose To Lose, NCL's brand new survey conducted by Harris Interactive finds that while many Americans think they’re “lighter” than they are, most are not being told by a doctor they need to lose weight.
  • Live Well With Asthma, an educational campaign that includes survey findings on American Asthma sufferers.
  • Responsible Rx provides parents with the tools necessary to discover the proper medications for their ADD/ADHD child and to better assess their diagnosis.
  • On The Loose, a publication discussing the risk of counterfeit drugs and how to better protect oneself against fraudulent medications.

Labor Publications:

  • NCL's 2007 Five Worst Teen Jobs warns youth and parents about the dangers of some summer jobs. Over one million youth have been injured on the job since the release of the NIOSH Report on Deficiencies in Federal Child Labor Protections.

Food Publications:

NCL programs include:

  • LifeSmarts, an educational opportunity that develops the consumer and marketplace knowledge and skills of teenagers in a fun way and rewards them for this knowledge.
  • NCL's Fraud Center is a mission to give consumers the information they need to avoid becoming victims of telemarketing and Internet fraud, and to help them get their complaints to law enforcement agencies quickly and easily.
  • The Child Labor Coalition is an international organization committed to strengthening child labor protections both in the United States and abroad.


  1. National Consumers League Website. Retrieved August 14, 2007.
  2. A Brief Look Back on 100 Years of Advocacy Retrieved August 22, 2007.
  3. National Consumers League Website. Retrieved August 14, 2007.
  4. A Brief Look Back on 100 Years of Advocacy Retrieved August 22, 2007.
  5. Landon Storrs, Civilizing Capitalism: The National Consumers' League, Women's Activism, and Labor Standards in the New Deal Era. (University of North Carolina Press, 2000. ISBN 9780807848388).
  6. Guide to the National Consumers' League Files, 1904-1955. (Cornell University, 2002). Retrieved August 14, 2007.
  7. Storrs
  8. Ibid.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives. 2002. Guide to the National Consumers' League Files, 1904-1955. Cornell University. Retrieved August 20, 2007.
  • Storrs, Landon. 2000. Civilizing Capitalism: The National Consumers' League, Women's Activism, and Labor Standards in the New Deal Era. University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 9780807848388.
  • Vose, Clement. 1957. The National Consumers' League and the Brandeis Brief. Midwest Journal of Political Science.

External links

All links retrieved November 11, 2022.


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