Client Spotlight: National Consumers League

As we reflect on The Webster Group’s 25 years of events, we are grateful that the work we do emphasizes the missions of so many remarkable organizations. Our new Client Spotlight series brings you stories and in-depth information from our clients, in their own words, about the work they champion. The Webster Group was founded because we saw a need to provide high quality event planning and management services to the non-profit industry here in Washington, D.C. We are proud to continue offering innovative solutions for events across the corporate, nonprofit, and government sectors around the world.


Client Spotlight for the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League has been a valued client of TWG since 2017. We’ve been pleased to support them in planning their annual dinner gala, the Trumpeter Awards Dinner, with full scale planning and production services. We are working with them as the event transitions to a virtual format for 2020 and are incredibly excited about the opportunity to create something unique for them this year. We spoke with Director of Development, Karen Silberstein, about the organization and the current work they are focused on.


Describe NCL

The National Consumers League is the nation’s oldest consumer advocacy organization. Founded in 1899, our mission has always been to promote and protect the interests of workers and consumers. Headquartered in our nation’s capital, NCL fights for consumers and workers on the issues that matter most. Our flagship programs—, the Child Labor Coalition, LifeSmarts, Script Your Future, and Consumers for Safe CBD—provide vital education for consumers of all ages and backgrounds and enable consumers to voice their concerns about the marketplace. From the beltway to beyond, we advocate on behalf of consumers and workers at the local and state level and before Congress and federal agencies. 


What members do you serve?

NCL’s mission spans a wide range of issue areas labor, fraud, health and safety, food and nutrition, consumer literacy from the consumer and worker perspective. We partner with business, government, organized labor, industry and trade associations, and other not for profit organizations.


How do you see Covid-19 impacting the work that NCL does and its members?

Helping consumers stay safe and healthy is at the core of what NCL does. In these uncertain times, NCL’s work is more critical and more relevant than ever. NCL has led the charge to give consumers much needed information on testing. Our public education efforts alerted consumers to false and deceptive advertising of products purporting to cure or treat COVID-19. We have cautioned consumers about the dangers of COVID-19 related scams and fraud, the importance of following established social distancing protocols and recommended public health guidance and fighting to enforce regulations that keep essential workers safe and healthy. We have worked with the Attorneys General across the country to publicize and take a stand against online fraud, and price gouging, while offering tips to consumers for staying safe.


What do you see as one of the most pressing issues NCL is currently addressing? (Non-covid related)

It would be hard to identify one issue that is more important than the rest at NCL.

One issue that we have been trying to address is that of increasing access to broadband in rural areas. This year we are honoring Jessica Rosenworcel of the Federal Communications Commission in part because of her advocacy for investing in broadband and closing the homework gap. As online learning becomes increasingly prevalent, students in remote and rural areas are often at a disadvantage in terms of accessing the internet.

Another important issue we are addressing is that of surprise medical billing. As many as one in four Americans have had difficulty paying medical bills because they incur unexpected expenses due to surprise out-of-network “balance bills”. These bills arrive even when people are careful to select an in-network hospital and provider. They discover through these bills that a service was provided in the course of their in-network care that was “out of network”. The cost may come from an out of network provider, such as an anesthesiologist, or by an out of network service such as an emergency department or an air ambulance. These bills can be high – hundreds to thousands of dollars. The National Consumers League has joined dozens of other consumer, patient and workers groups asking Congress to pass a bill that bans surprise balance bill and protects consumers from these unexpected and unpreventable charges.

Another pressing issue is that of online safety and data security. NCL’s campaign informs consumers about emerging scams and arms them with the tools they and their families need to avoid being defrauded. NCL has a leadership role with the FCC Consumer Advisory Committee, serving on various workgroups, and providing advice on key issues to the FCC regarding the policy impact on consumers. NCL has consistently championed a combination of consumer education and policy measures to protect consumers from online scams and fraud including those related to coronavirus.


Tell us about a significant NCL accomplishment.

In February 2020, the National Consumer League and SEIU 32BJ released a report following an in-depth investigation with dozens of Chipotle workers throughout New York City documenting widespread worker abuses that directly affect customer safety.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has sickened many people across the US, essential workers like those at Chipotle and other chains have risked their health and their lives to provide food to their communities. These workers say that long-standing issues at Chipotle are putting them at risk.

The report also called attention to the ineffective food safety audits, which now must be improved per the deferred prosecution agreement. The food safety audits and Chipotle’s paid sick day policy were part of a set of reforms put in place in 2016 to win back the trust of Chipotle customers following earlier illness outbreaks at Chipotle but according to workers, audits only happen quarterly, meaning that once a store is audited, the manager knows they won’t get audited again until the next quarter and relaxes safety measures.

Following the report, Department of Justice imposed on the company the largest criminal fine ever for a food safety case but said the company needs to make more reforms to address the core issues that are driving worker abuses and violations of food safety protocols.


What does the Trumpeter Awards Dinner mean to the organization?

The Trumpeter event is imbued with historical significance for NCL and our history is a huge part of our identity. For more than 45 years, the Trumpeter Awards have celebrated exceptional leaders in consumer and worker advocacy and helped raise funds for our programs.  NCL’s Trumpeter Awards Dinner pays tribute to exceptional leaders as well as to all those past and present who have contributed and continue to build upon NCL’s rich legacy as a leading voice in consumer advocacy.  This awards dinner is also our primary source of unrestricted funding and benefits all of NCL’s flagship alliances, coalitions and programs.


How can individuals and organizations support NCL?

Join our community of supporters and allies! We welcome partners from many sectors and industries to join us in pursuing our vision of a fair and safe marketplace. Together, our voice is stronger.


Tell us about your LifeSmarts program?

LifeSmarts is a rigorous academic competition and scholarship opportunity that develops the consumer and marketplace skills of teens in a meaningful, yet fun way. Our goal is to help shape a new generation of savvy consumers. The program is now active in 50 states and the District of Columbia and boasts more than 2,200 teams. This free program is open to all 6th-12thgrade students in the United States. LifeSmarts supports teens who are beginning to make “adult” choices and planning for postsecondary education and careers. Students learn critical life skills such as family budgeting, reducing food waste, maintaining online security, being an engaged citizen, and avoiding scams. Our alumni report that LifeSmarts has made a huge difference in their lives, allowing them to make better, more sound financial and consumer decisions than their peers.