February 27, 2007
The National Consumers League (NCL) and the Child Labor Coalition (CLC) are calling on Congress to enact protections for the thousands of teenagers and young adults who are abused and cheated by the traveling magazine sales industry.

The organizations cited a recent New York Times article that documented the abuse and mistreatment young people commonly encounter when they are roped into traveling magazine sales schemes.

The groups said they welcomed the Times story but were disappointed at Congress' failure to act.

"Why hasn't Congress acted," asked Darlene Adkins, NCL vice president and CLC coordinator. "There's been legislation introduced year after year that addresses this problem and the reaction has been disinterest and a shrug."

Two decades ago, in 1987, a Congressional investigation of the magazine sales industry uncovered a track record of abuse, fraud, and indentured servitude involving its often teenage or young adult salespersons. Nothing came of it.

As the Times article put it: "More than two decades after a Senate investigation revealed widespread problems with these itinerant sellers, and despite several highly publicized fatal accidents and violent crimes involving the sales crews in recent years, the industry remains almost entirely unregulated. And while the industry says it has changed, advocates and law enforcement officials say the abuses persist."

In the 20 years since those hearings, the Young American Workers Bill of Rights (in 2003 renamed as Youth Worker Protection Act) has been introduced in Congress nine times.

Sponsored by Rep. Tom Lantos (D_CA), the bill would revise the nation's child labor laws to include a prohibition on minors under the age of 16 from working in door-to-door sales. This bill has never made it to the floor for a vote.

In both 1999 and 2001, the Traveling Sales Crew Protection Act was introduced. The lead sponsor is Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI). This bill would regulate the industry, close loopholes, and better protect salespersons in door-to-door sales. This bill has never made it to the floor for a vote either.

"We do applaud the members of Congress who have valiantly raised this issue," says Adkins. "Despite their efforts, Congress has proved to be unwilling to step up to the plate and pass legislation that is sorely overdue."