|Jim Guest, President|
|$248 million (2009)|
Consumers Union is a non-profit organization based in the United States whose mission is to advocate on policy issues related to telecommunications, mass media, vehicle safety, health care, product safety, financial services, investing, food safety, housing, and energy and utility deregulation.
The organization published the Consumer Reports magazine since its founding in 1936 until 2012. In 2012, Consumers Union created a spin-off company named Consumer Reports to continue its mission of product research, testing and reporting via its Consumer Reports magazine (as well as via an online website), while the Consumers Union company dedicated itself exclusively to advocacy matters.
Consumers Union has four advocacy offices that attempt to influence policy that affects consumers. They are located in Washington, D.C.; San Francisco, California; Austin, Texas; and Yonkers, New York. Employees based in these offices "testify before federal and state legislative and regulatory bodies, petition government agencies, and file lawsuits on behalf of the consumer interest."
Consumers Union's predecessor, Consumers' Research, was founded in 1926. In 1936, Consumers Union was founded by Arthur Kallet, Colston Warne, and others who felt that the established Consumers' Research organization was not aggressive enough. Kallet, an engineer and director of Consumers' Research, had a falling out with F.J. Schlink and started his own organization with Amherst College economics professor Colston Warne. In part due to actions of Consumers' Research, the House Un-American Activities Committee placed Consumers Union on a list of subversive organizations, only to remove it in 1954.
Prominent consumer advocate Ralph Nader was on the board of directors, but left in 1975 due to a "division of philosophy" with new Executive Director Rhoda Karpatkin. Nader wanted Consumers Union to focus on policy and product advocacy, while Karpatkin focused on product testing. Karpatkin was appointed Executive Directory in 1974 and retired as President in the early 2000s.
Consumers Union has helped start several consumer groups and publications, in 1960 helping create global consumer group Consumers International and in 1974 providing financial assistance to Consumers' Checkbook which is considered akin to Consumer Reports for local services in the seven metropolitan areas they serve.
In 2012 the publishing organization began doing business as "Consumer Reports", which is also the name of the magazine published by the organization. The reason for the name change was that the name of "Consumer Reports" this means that it was more familiar to the public than the name "Consumers Union". The name "Consumers Union" became reserved for the subsection of the organization which participates in political advocacy.
Advocacy and campaigns
Consumers Union has hundreds of thousands of e-advocates who take action and write letters to policymakers about the issues its advocates take on. CU has also launched several advocacy websites, including HearUsNow.org, which helps consumers with telecommunications policy matters. In March 2005, CU campaign PrescriptionforChange.org released "Drugs I Need", an animated short with a song from the Austin Lounge Lizards, that was featured by The New York Times, JibJab, BoingBoing, and hundreds of blogs. On Earth Day 2005, CU launched GreenerChoices.org, a web-based initiative meant to "inform, engage, and empower consumers about environmentally friendly products and practices."
Consumers Union, the advocacy and policy arm of Consumer Reports Magazine, is a sponsor of the Safe Patient Project, with the goal to aid consumers in finding the best quality of health care by promoting the public disclosure of hospital-acquired infection rates and medical errors. The US Centers for Disease Control states that about 2 million patients annually (about 1 in 20) will acquire an infection while being treated in a hospital for an unrelated health care problem, resulting in 99,000 deaths and as much as $45 billion in excess hospital costs.
The campaign has worked in every state calling for legislation requiring hospitals to disclose infection rates to the public. A list of state infection reports can be found here. The Safe Patient Project also works on medical devices, prescription drugs, and physician accountability.
GreenerChoices.org offers an "accessible, reliable, and practical source of information on buying 'greener' products that have minimal environmental impact and meet personal needs." The site contains many articles about different products, rating them on how "green" they are. It also focuses on electronics and appliance recycling and reuse, as well as conservation and global warming prevention.
- Consumers International
- Australian Consumers' Association
- Consumers' Institute of New Zealand
- UFC Que Choisir, France's most important consumers' group.
- Bounds, Gwendolyn (May 5, 2010). "Meet the Sticklers". The Wall Street Journal. pp. D1–D2. Retrieved May 5, 2010.
- About Consumers Union
- Carr, David (15 Sep 2003). "MediaTalk; 2 Are Out in Shake-Up at Consumer Reports". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved 2012-11-15.
- "CONSUMER GROUP FORMED.; New Organization Plans to Give Data on Goods and Services". The New York Times. 6 Feb 1936. Retrieved 2012-11-15.
- "Notes on People; Nader Quits Consumers Union". The New York Times. 23 Aug 1975. Retrieved 2012-11-15.
- Finn, Robin (5 Oct 2000). "PUBLIC LIVES; Still Top Dog, Consumers' Pit Bull to Retire". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved 2012-11-15.
- Gold, Gerald (13 Jan 1974). "Consumers Union Picks Lawyer To Be Its First Woman Director; In Involvement". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-11-15.
- Guest, Jim (2012). "From Our President - Changes for 2012 - Consumer Reports". consumerreports.org. Retrieved 17 July 2012.