This profile concerns the organization that publishes Consumer Reports magazine, formerly known as Consumers Union of the United States.
Consumer Reports is the parent organization of Consumer Reports magazine; it was formerly known as Consumers Union. In recent years, the magazine has simply operated under the name Consumer Reports and the organization that was Consumers Union was announced to have been rebranded into Consumer Reports Advocacy, which is part of Consumer Reports.
Consumers Union was well known for publishing of product testing and research in the magazine and online, as well as lobbying for left-leaning consumer-product and environmental laws and regulations.
Consumers Union and Consumer Reports magazine were founded in 1936 following a strike among employees at Consumers’ Research, another nonprofit consumer testing organization that was founded in 1929. The strike resulted in the head of the organization firing several of the strikers and describing them as communists. As a result, the strikers formed a new organization called Consumers Union and began publishing the magazine under the name Consumers Union Reports. Consumers Union changed the name of the magazine to Consumer Reports in 1942.
The founding of Consumers Union was opposed by many magazine publishers with several outlets refusing to provide advertising space for the organization over its policy of criticizing products by name. Early products evaluated by the organization included milk, soap, breakfast cereal, credit unions, and Alka-Seltzer. In the 1950s and 1960s, Consumer Reports grew rapidly, as did its efforts around consumer advocacy including publishing criticism of the tobacco industry over the tar and nicotine content of cigarettes. During this period was when the organization began to ramp up its lobbying and advocacy efforts, which included staff and board members of the organization testifying on public policy issues including drug pricing and automobile safety. The organization also began providing funding to other consumer advocacy groups including American Council on Consumer Interests and Ralph Nader’s Center for Auto Safety. Nader eventually joined the board of Consumers Union.
In 2018, Consumers Union abandoned the name Consumers Union, and rebranded as two organizations: Consumers Union Action Fund, a 501(c)(4) lobbying organization, Consumer Reports, a charitable organization that continued to publish the magazine of the same name.