Honoring 11 Dedicated Consumer Advocates of 1983
It is at the end of a year that one more easily thinks of constancy — defined by Webster as “steadfastness of mind under duress.” I think of those public citizens who year after year stay on the course against large odds in order to fight for justice in America. They work out of a sense of mission and a genuine kind of patriotism — the kind that says if you love your country, you should be working to make it ever more lovable. They work long hours with or without fanfare; they are looking to help people not to receive their gratitude.
But once in a while it is good to have people express a little gratitude in the direction of these non-profit democracy-builders. So for those of you interested in reaching these committed citizens here are my selections and their addresses for 1983:
- Dr. Mike Jacobson, biochemist, working for the past 13 years in Washington in promoting nutrition through colorful posters and materials and in opposing harmful food additives and junk food. Earlier this fall, not even being struck by a car while riding his bicycle kept him from going to his office every day. The food industry giants do not like Mike. Center for Science in the Public Interest, 1755 S Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009.
- Dina Rasor’s self-appointed citizen job is to ride herd on Pentagon waste, fraud and abuse. She took on the M-l tank and the C-58 transport plane as costly clunkers. A hard core of Pentagon and munitions industry whistle-blowers supply her with information — she calls them her “closet patriots.” She is all of 27 years old. Project on Military Procurement, 201 Massachusetts Avenue, NE #402, Washington, DC 20002.
- Clarence Ditlow, engineer and lawyer, makes sure that the auto companies recall your defective cars. He puts heat on the federal government to issue and enforce auto safety and pollution control standards. Late into the night he works for-motorists — since 1971. Center for Auto Safety, 1346 Connecticut Avenue, NW #1223, Washington, DC 20036.
- Rodney Leonard is one of the very few high government officials who formed a citizen group and stayed with it for the past 14 years. As director of the Community Nutrition Institute, the former Assistant Secretary of Agriculture under Lyndon Johnson monitors the Agriculture Department’s programs to feed the poor in this country. Hunger and malnutrition are Leonard’s adversaries. Community Nutrition Institute, 2001 S Street, NW #530, Washington, DC 20009.
- Karen Ferguson, a Harvard Law School graduate and the leading advocate for pension rights. Large companies who try to squirm out of paying their employees what is due them under their pensions sooner or later are located by this upbeat attorney. Her group oversees both the Department of Labor and the Congress regarding pension issues and provides clear material on pension rights for inquiring citizens. Pension Rights Center, 1346 Connecticut Avenue, NW #932, Washington, DC 20036.
- Sam Simon is not clubby with the electronic media moguls. His task is to keep your access rights to the media <fairness doctrine, right of reply, etc.) from being destroyed by the Reagan Administration. These days his group is leading the consumer opposition to forthcoming sharp rises in residential telephone rates. His paperback “Reverse the Charges” explains what you can do. Telecommunications Research and Action Center, P. 0. Box 12038, Washington, DC 20005.
- Evan Kemp is disabled, so he’s working daily for the rights of the disabled. He wants enforcement of building access laws and other mobility rights for disabled Americans. He has helped start a factory designing better wheelchairs. Disability Rights Center, 1346 Connecticut Avenue, NW #1124, Washington, DC 20036.
- Marcy Benstock is the very definition of perseverance in her 11 year no-holds-barred struggle against New York City air pollution and certain highway projects that make developers rich, but increase air pollution and undermine neighborhoods and improve mass transit facilities for the City’s masses. New York City Clean Air Campaign, 150 Nassau Street #2030, New York, NY 10038.
- Maggie Kuhn at 77 is a human dynamo, traveling all over the country organizing chapters of the Gray Panthers and shattering the image of older people as passive and pitiful. This is truly a cultural revolution that Maggie Kuhn started around 1970 and she punctuates it sonically with an ear-splitting “Cry of the Gray Panther.” Congress has been hearing it all the way. Gray Panthers, 3700 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA 15104.
- Robert McIntyre, a young lawyer, battles inequities in the federal tax laws and how these laws are not just favoring the wealthy but are depleting productive economic investment. His paperback “Inequity and Decline” explains. McIntyre’s specialty is the late-in-the-session public counterattack in Congress to the late-in-the-session slippery attempts by business lobbies to carve out billions of dollars in special loopholes. Citizens for Tax Justice, 2020 K Street, NW, Washington, DC 20037.
- Lois Gibbs did not have to read about what toxic chemicals can do to a community. It happened to her and her neighbors at Love Canal in Niagara Falls, New York. After that celebrated uprising, she started a citizen organization to help other communities similarly exposed to the chemical wastes of callous corporations. Citizens Clearinghouse on Hazardous Waste, Box 7097, Arlington, VA 22207.
May you all have a resourceful and just New Year.