Volume 62, No. 4 . . . . . .Founded in 1900 - Our Second Century! . . . . . .April 2000

Consumers League of New Jersey, 1900 - 2000
Centennial Newsletter

In this issue:
Your Invitation to the Consumers League Centennial Dinner!
Rent to Own Falls Short in N.J. Legislature

CLNJ Accomplishments, 1985-2000
One Hundred Years of Thanks

Rent to Own Bill Falls Short

As the days of the N.J. Legislative session grew short, on January 10, Assembly Speaker Jack Collins posted rent to own special interest bill A.1097 for a vote. But the vote never came, because the rent to own "wish-list" bill did not have enough supporters anymore.

The great victory for low income consumers must be credited to the hard work of NJPIRG. Of course Consumers League helped battle the RTO lobbyists for eleven years CLNJ has gone to the State Legislature to fight the legalization of 100% interest in rent to own. New Jersey is somewhat unique in defeating the high powered RTO lobbyists.

The next step is to enact the pro-consumer RTO reform. The elements needed for reform are: limit RTO to the 30% criminal usury law, disclose the annual percentage rate, and figure the rate on a fair market value (no price inflation).

Thank you also to the NAACP for opposing the RTO industry. Rent to own is a civil rights issue, and those now opposing the RTO industry are like the abolitionists: truth and justice are more powerful than greed, and will overcome someday.

For details of the legislative battles, and links to newspaper editorials which denounced rent to own bill A.1097 see: www.consumersleague.org/rto_hot.htm. For information about the Consumers League RTO educational campaign see www.consumersleague.org/rentown.htm

CLNJ Centennial Dinner May 16

You are cordially invited to the Consumers League of New Jersey Centennial Dinner and celebration on May 16, 2000. You won't want to miss this once-in-a- lifetime event. This is your chance to support the Consumers League, and attend a reunion of consumer advocates. Please click here for complete details. Come to the celebration, and bring your spouse and friends. If you can't attend in person, please attend in spirit by giving generously to the Consumers League.

CLNJ Accomplishments:
Early Years

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 CLNJ history.

Consumers League Accomplishments, 1985 to 2000

From 1985 onward CLNJ continued to fight for consumer rights and basic justice.

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 funds).

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.

Rent to Own:
CLNJ 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. See them all at our website.

CLNJ 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.

The Consumers League of New Jersey, founded in 1900,
cordially invites you to join in a reunion of consumer advocates at our:

Centennial Dinner Celebration

Tuesday, May 16, 6:30 p.m.
The Manor, 111 Prospect Avenue, West Orange, N.J.
$60 per person

R.S.V.P. by May 9, 2000 to Patricia Royer, Dinner Chair
Consumers League of New Jersey Centennial Dinner

[] Yes, I will attend. Enclosed is my check for $______ for ______ tickets at $60 each.
[] I cannot attend, but enclosed is my contribution of $______.
Our Special Centennial Program Donation Levels are: ___ Millennium Circle ($2,000+),
___ Centennial Circle ($100+), _____ Patron (other amounts)
Please let us know the names of all who will attend for our Registration records:

Names _____________________________________________________________
Firm ..._____________________________________________________________
Street.._____________________________________________________________
City ...._____________________________________________________________
Phone _____________________________________________________________
Thank you for your support!

Please make checks payable to Consumers League of New Jersey, and mail them to: Patricia Royer, CLNJ Dinner Chair

100 Years of Thanks

A word of Thanks is in order to all the persons who have unselfishly helped the Consumers League in its many projects. Working as Consumers League volunteers for many years after their retirements we honor Emily Kennedy, Ellen Studdiford, and the late Teresa Varni. Thanks to Steve Moctezuma, office manager and Board member. Thanks to Consumers League officers Gail Chester, Ricki Stochaj and Emily Kennedy. Thanks to current and former members of the Board of Directors. Consumers League remembers its deceased activists Suzanne Zwemer, Alice Ruotolo, (both of whom were active after age 90 in consumerism), and Mary Dykman for her leadership and her generous contribution. Consumers League reveres the late Rev. Canon Benedict Hanson, and thanks his sister Mrs. Laura Carey for her generous contribution in his memory. Thanks to Pat Royer for organizing the Centennial Dinner.

Space does not permit a complete list of all who should be honored for their past work for consumer justice. The future is open to anyone to participate, by activity or contribution, to further the work of the Consumers League of New Jersey.


MEMBERSHIP APPLICATION:
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Annual dues of $20 include a subscription to the Consumers League Newsletter. Contributions to the Education Fund (only) are tax deductible. Thank you for your contribution.

________Consumers League Millennium Circle $2,000
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________Consumers League Century Club, $100
________Consumers League of New Jersey, annual dues $20
________Consumers League Education Fund, $20
________Newsletter subscription only, $10 (not a member)
________Additional donation to help CLNJ: Enclosed is:
_____$1,000,_____$100, _____$50, _____$25, _____other.

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$100 for CLNJ's Next 100 Years!

Consumers League of New Jersey celebrates our One Hundredth Anniversary in the year 2000!

As we start our second century,
we have a simple plea:
if you can, please send us $100 for our next 100 years!

Please send your membership application and your check to:
Consumers League of New Jersey
60 South Fullerton Avenue
Montclair, New Jersey 07042

Thank you!

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