This summer I have the honor of working as an intern with the historic National Consumers League, or NCL. NCL is a DC-based consumer advocacy organization with a long and impressive history reaching back to 1899. The League was chartered by Jane Addams and Josephine Lowell, two of the most admirable social reformers and trailblazers in American history. Additionally, Eleanor Roosevelt was a lifelong supporter of the League, even testifying in Congress on behalf of the NCL and serving as the group’s vice president for a period of time. This is an interesting parallel to her role in the founding of Brandeis University in 1948. Justice Louis Brandeis himself had ties to the organization and its founding staffers. Working with the NCL has been a humbling glimpse into the long, interwoven timeline of social justice and reform that I have the privilege of participating in, as both a Brandeis student and this year’s Brandeis fellow with the National Consumers League.
The National Consumers League has been at the forefront of America’s ongoing struggle for worker and consumer rights, dating back to the establishment of eight-hour work days and minimum wage. The goal of NCL is to represent consumers regarding workplace and marketplace issues. The group focuses most heavily on matters of privacy, child labor, medication and food safety. While these topics are of deep importance to the health and success of all Americans, what I appreciate most about NCL is that they advocate on behalf of the unheard. I grew up in a diverse, working class city with a substantial immigrant population. Because of this, I witnessed firsthand how those who are most frequently taken advantage of also face significant barriers to speaking up. Such people often do not have the time, energy, education or opportunity necessary to fight the injustices they face everyday. The National Consumers League works tirelessly to represent all consumers, and I see their work as a vital aspect of remedying social and economic inequality.
I was drawn to NCL because it hones my passion for social justice in a tangible way. Their work creates social change through a variety of methods, both within and without the political system. During my first two weeks at the organization, I witnessed advocacy in action as staff supported the introduction of two major pieces of legislation and continued to work towards their passage. The NCL also has several long-standing programs that educate and protect consumers. One of these is LifeSmarts, a nationwide consumer education competition for high schoolers. Much of my work at NCL will be centered around creating resources for LifeSmarts, in addition to exploring ways to expand the program. I have been able to experience how NCL empowers consumers through my work on LifeSmarts. In addition to my work on LifeSmarts, I have the opportunity to do research projects on vital consumer issues and attend some of the fantastic events in DC on behalf of the organization.
As a Public Policy major interested in a broad spectrum of political and social issues, it is often difficult to pinpoint a professional outlet for my interests. NCL grants me an exciting glimpse into how I can translate my social justice foundation and Brandeis education into a meaningful career. I am excited to learn more about what advocacy, lobbying and policymaking looks like from the perspective of a non-profit while soaking up the excitement of living in Washington.
– Elaina Pevide