The Consumers League of New Jersey was founded in 1900.
In that era, children worked in factories, and many of the protections
of modern life which we take for granted were nonexistent. Consumers
League struggled for 35 years before its original agenda: safe
food, safe working conditions, prohibitions on child labor, promotion
of minimum wages laws, and union protections, was enacted into
law as the New Deal.
The year 2000 marked the one hundredth anniversary of the
founding of the Consumers League of New Jersey.
In 1900, conditions for workers in this country were
grim. High school education was only for rich children. Poor
children worked in factories. All factory workers labored long
hours in dangerous conditions. Seven-day work weeks were the
norm in some industries: "if you don't come in Sunday, don't
come in Monday."
How are we doing now? Much better here in the USA,
thanks to the union movement, and the New Deal labor laws, prohibiting
child labor, and mandating minimum wages, and overtime pay. Most
Americans take benefits like Social Security and health insurance
plans for granted.
But some sweatshops still exist in this country, particularly
in the garment industry. Outside of the US, conditions are still
as bad as 1900 in many of the factories which make our clothes.
A recent class action suit accuses major manufacturers and stores
of turning a blind eye on exploitation.
Consumers League of New Jersey still stands with its founders:
even if laws of foreign countries allow it, child labor is still
unacceptable, starvation wages are still unacceptable, excessive
hours and 12 hour days are unacceptable. CLNJ cannot put its
stamp of approval on practices which would make our founders
turn in their graves.
CLNJ Accomplishments: Early
Quite a bit has been written about the history of the Consumers
League of New Jersey. Starting in 1900, when child labor was
common, when consumers and workers had few rights, CLNJ was way
ahead of the country in its vision of justice. It was not until
the New Deal that many of the reforms championed by CLNJ became
law. CLNJ was a founding member of the National Consumers League,
and worked with NCL and unions to bring about change.
CLNJ also took up the cause of the "watch-dial" radium
poisoning of female workers right here in Essex County.
In the 1960 and 1970s, CLNJ leaders spoke out for consumer protection
laws, credit laws, usury limits, and enforcement of minimum wage
and child labor laws. CLNJ looked into supermarket prices. CLNJ
went to the fields to support migrant farmworkers. Rutgers University
has considerable archives about the early and middle years of
Consumers League Accomplishments,
1985 to 2000
1985 onward CLNJ continued to fight for consumer rights and basic
Interest Rate Fairness:
For fifteen years CLNJ promoted lower interest rates by publicizing
lower interest credit cards. CLNJ gave away tens of thousands
of credit card pamphlets. CLNJ lamented bank mergers which resulted
in fewer choices, higher prices for consumers, and interest rates
which never went down. CLNJ supported the Fair Lending Coalition.
CLNJ helped NJPIRG get N.J.'s Basic Banking law enacted.
Federal Reserve Board:
From 1986-89, CLNJ's President was a member of the Federal Reserve
Board's Consumer Advisory Council. We opposed checkhold delays.
When the FRB did not appreciate our advice, the common ground
discovered between CL and bankers proved to be the formula which
Congress enacted into law: the Federal Reserve must process checks
quicker, and banks must end the long holds. We supported Truth
in Savings, also enacted. Paul Volker listened to our talk on
the increasing consumer debt load.
Mortgages & Predatory Lending:
With John Thurber of the Public Advocate, and Rob Stuart of NJPIRG,
CLNJ fought against weakening N.J.'s Secondary Mortgage Loan
Act. When the Legislature legalized abuses, less than one year
later, CLNJ testified before the U.S. Senate in 1987 about home
equity loans, or as CLNJ put it "charge a blouse, put a
lien on your house." Congress banned what N.J. had
approved: the "rate rise surprise" (the power to change
a home equity contract after you borrowed significant
Bankruptcy and Foreclosure:
CLNJ stood up for the poor and those with no lobby, such as bankrupts
and homeowners facing foreclosure. When aCourt refused to let a homeowner pay
his mortgage arrears through a bankruptcy payment plan, CLNJ
and allies such as Henry Sommer, Gary Klein at the National Consumer
Law Center, and our Lou Novellino fought for seven years until
Congress finally reversed the awful Roach case, giving
desperate homeowners a second chance to save their homes. We
oppose the current bankruptcy "reform" bills.
got a grant in 1991 from NCCE/AT&T for a rent to own educational
campaign. We produced the RENT TO OWN RAP, a public service announcement
in rap, which has been on countless television and radio programs
since then. CLNJ also made a poster and pamphlet on rent to own.
here for the rent to own educational campaign.
CLNJ, represented by Larry Lustberg, Esq. was amicus in Madeline
Houston's suit, Green v. Continental Rentals, which declared
RTO illegal, usurious, and a consumer fraud. CLNJ lobbied for
11 years against rent to own efforts to legalize their 100% interest.
Thanks to Jerry Flanagan, Benita Jain, Curtis Fisher of NJPIRG
for stopping rent to own in the Legislature.
CLNJ, with Dave Sciarra, wrote the good half of the N.J. Fair
Foreclosure Act, giving the homeowner the right to catch up mortgage
payments, instead of having to pay 100% in a lump sum or lose
the house. Michaelene Loughlin wrote amicus briefs in home repair
fraud cases in the N.J. Supreme Court. We worked with the Consumer
Federation of America, NCL, NJPIRG, US PIRG and many others.
We set up our website: www.consumersleague.org where our future
will be written.