Consumers Union

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Consumers Union
TypeNonprofit organization
Founded1936
Founder(s)Arthur Kallet
Colston Warne
Headquarters
Key peopleJim Guest, President
Revenue$248 million (2009)[1]
Employees652
Websiteconsumersunion.org
 
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Consumers Union
TypeNonprofit organization
Founded1936
Founder(s)Arthur Kallet
Colston Warne
Headquarters
Key peopleJim Guest, President
Revenue$248 million (2009)[1]
Employees652
Websiteconsumersunion.org

Consumer Reports, known as Consumers Union from its founding until 2012, is a non-profit organization best known as the publisher of Consumer Reports, based in the United States. Its mission is to "test products, inform the public, and protect consumers."[2]

In addition to its research and publishing activities, Consumers Union has four advocacy offices that attempt to influence policy that affects consumers, 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."[2]

Consumers Union's advocacy staff focus 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.

History[edit]

Consumers Want to Know, a 1960 documentary on Consumers Union

Consumers Union's predecessor, Consumers' Research, was founded in 1926.[3] In 1936, Consumers Union was founded[4] 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.[5] Nader wanted Consumers Union to focus on policy and product advocacy, while Karpatkin focused on product testing.[6] Karpatkin was appointed Executive Directory in 1974 and retired as President in the early 2000s.[6][7]

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.

At the start of 2009, Consumers Union acquired The Consumerist blog from Gawker Media[8] for approximately $600,000.

In 2012 the publishing organization began doing business as "Consumer Reports", which is also the name of the magazine published by the organization.[9] 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".[9] The name "Consumers Union" became reserved for the subsection of the organization which participates in political advocacy.[9]

Advocacy and campaigns[edit]

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.[1]

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.

Campaign for children's health care[edit]

Consumers Union is a partner in the Campaign for Children's Health Care, a multi-year campaign to raise awareness about the problem of uninsured children in America.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

External links[edit]