Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Blocking Your Day in Court, Thanks to ALEC, Part I


Many comedians and living room pundits have enjoyed the jaded glow of disdain followed by suitable knowing laughter while invoking the infamous McDonald’s hot coffee lawsuit as proof positive that a citizen’s access to the Halls of Justice needs to be slowed down, so much so that he and she don’t even consider seeking redress for righteous wrongs. The documentary Hot Coffee tries to set the record straighter about Ms. Stella Liebeck and McDonald’s hot coffee.

According to the documentary, comedians and armchair pundits overlook the fact that McDonald’s had more than 700 complaints about the high heat of its coffee before Ms. Liebeck sustained injuries. In addition, most people who mocked Ms. Liebeck’s suit fail to note that McDonald’s lowered the holding temperature of its coffee by 10 degrees after the company lost in court. Perhaps most important, the documentarians reveal what the jury saw: medical records including photographs of Ms. Liebeck’s injuries. She sustained more than burns to the skin. The coffee was so hot that when her clothing was removed, flesh came with it. She underwent extensive treatment to heal.

Ms. Liebeck also did not leap to the head of the line by suing immediately. She sought more modest remedies, including a request that McDonald’s cover her medical expenses. It refused so left with debt for her care, Ms. Liebeck sought redress by using the judicial branch of government, the branch that some would like to change. Many physicians and businesses would like to limit settlements and even access.  In response, especially because its membership includes businesses, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has set another goal for the 2014 legislating season, and it is to limit a citizen’s access to judicial redress. Anyone hurt or killed by corporate practices or products will find it harder to hold the corporations responsible.

Conventional Wisdom.
Many people believe that U. S. health care costs are high in part because doctors are unduly burdened by malpractice insurance and claims. What fewer people know is that the largest malpractice insurer is doctor owned. Furthermore, many people have been taught that many medical malpractice claims are frivolous--just a result of folks trying to get rich at the expense of honest, competent doctors. Fewer people recognize that most of the claims filed have merit and a small percentage of doctors account for more than half of all suits. In other words, medical malpractice affects few physicians, except for the need to have insurance, and the problems of medical malpractice have been overblown in order to dissuade citizens from suing and to persuade them to support reforms.

In addition, Big Corporations, including those providing food, energy, medicines, cigarettes, and paint, lament the high costs of litigation; they too seek legislative remedy to deter and even prevent the public from seeking damages. They have also engaged in a public campaign to persuade the public that petitioners are greedy and even dishonest. Hollywood and history, on the other hand, suggest a different reality.

Julia Roberts as Erin Brockavich convinced audiences that the plaintiffs were right to sue. Their questions went unanswered, and they were fed lies even as they became sick and died. But even after the large punitive damages settlement, townspeople continue to suffer from the effects of chromium-6 because the chemical is so toxic and so prevalent; it has seeped into groundwater and continues to damage residents.

State Attorneys General collaborated to sue tobacco companies, and they were able to identify so-called smoking guns in the form of internal documents that revealed full industry knowledge of the harms of tobacco, industry dollars spent to bamboozle the public, and campaigns to recruit more smokers while medical professionals warned the public about the harms of tobacco. The companies continue to invent products that are purportedly safer; the e-cigarette is one, but health professionals warn that industry claims about the product’s safety are deceptive. Ecigarettes contain carcinogens, not just nicotine.

A recent California case held three paint companies liable for cleaning up after themselves. Documents from the 1920s prove that the companies knew the lead component in paint would poison children, but the companies continued to make the products and expose children to them, even advertising with a child painting his red wagon using lead-based paint. In this case as well as the one involving Erin Brockavich against P G & E and State governments against tobacco companies, the courts ruled in favor of public health and against private profits when the companies had reason to believe that their products and/or practices would cause harm, and these cases prove that sometimes business lets its own prosperity override concerns for the public health, so much so that the businesses engage in fraud with malicious intent.

Photo by Al Griffin

ALEC proposes to rein in punitive damages and make it more difficult for class action or individual cases to proceed. Their model legislation, appearing below, demands that clear, compelling evidence must be brought forth proving that the companies had malicious intent to harm. And therein lies the problem: intent is difficult to ascertain, harder to prove without full and open confessions as to intent, and the malicious component harder still to prove for individuals may plead ignorance, thoughtlessness, and loyalty to Boards and/or dividends rather than the public, clearing them of legal responsibility if not moral or ethical.

An additional and perhaps more significant problem derives from the very definition for punitive damages: a defendant’s conduct warrants punitive damages because the conduct was borne of malice and committed under a veil of fraud or the conduct itself was reckless and egregious. In other words, ALEC’s proposal is redundant for the states’ punitive damage laws already include a defendant’s intent, and these laws already filter out so-called frivolous lawsuits.

But citizens must become aware that few lawsuits filed go to trial and of those that do, very few result in punitive damages. In fact, Landes & Posner (1986) found that only 2% of product liability cases result in punitive damages. Another study showed an even smaller frequency. In looking at certain localities, the Rand study found punitive damages occurred in only 1/10 of 1% in Cook County and even less in San Francisco.” Thus, the ALEC legislation appears to be a solution for a problem that does not exist.

Furthermore, the Supreme Court has demonstrated that it believes punitive damages should be no greater than a single digit multiplier from compensatory damages; e.g., if a jury were to award actual damages as $4,000, then punitive damages should be no greater than one to nine times that amount or an additional $4,000 to $36,000. With numerous Supreme Court decisions about punitive damages, legislatures throughout the nation have clear boundaries within which to work without the intervention of ALEC.

So once again, be wary of ALEC and its agenda. It appears to work against the citizen’s right to the judiciary and to receive punitive damages when warranted. It appears to believe that citizens are the problem, not the businesses or physicians who cause harm to citizens.

The model legislation appearing below is included for the readers’ benefit. As some of you may know, ALEC legislation has become law, showing up word for word as first proposed by ALEC in Florida (http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2012/02/02/417488/florida-gop-alec-forget) and Michigan (http://www.prwatch.org/news/2012/12/11903/michigan-passes-right-work-containing-verbatim-language-alec-model-bill). If punitive damage bills appear in your state, compare them to what appears below.


Punitive Damages Standards Act


The Punitive Damages Standards Act establishes a standard for liability for punitive damages, raises the burden of proof to clear and convincing evidence, allows a bifurcated trial on the question of whether the defendant is liable for punitive damages, limits the amount of a punitive damages award to twice the
amount of compensatory damages, and establishes an FDA defense to punitive damages for over-the-counter and prescription drugs, medical devices, and foods. Because the laws governing punitive damages vary so much among the states, a legislator planning to introduce a punitive damages bill should first obtain information about his or her state's laws governing punitive damages.

{Title, enacting clause, etc.}

Section 1. {Title.} This Act shall be known and may be cited as the Punitive Damages Standards Act.

Section 2. {Legislative Finding.} The legislature finds and declares that:
(A) the specter of unlimited punitive damages encourages plaintiffs and defendants to try cases needlessly and frustrates early settlement, thereby delaying justice and impeding the swift award of compensatory damages to victims;
(B) reasonable and fair standards will promote predictability in the award of punitive damages in a manner fully consistent with the objective of deterrence;
(C) private enterprise has been hampered unduly by the threat of unreasonablepunitive damages awards, with the consumer paying the ultimate costs in higher prices and insurance costs;
(D) punitive damages are private punishments in the nature of fines awarded in civil cases;
(E) when warranted in egregious cases, punitive damages can provide an appropriate expression of public disapproval for conduct that is truly shocking;
(F) current procedures for the award of punitive damages do not properly protect those accused of serious wrongdoing nor provide sufficient guidance for the imposition of these penalties; and
(G) it is in the public interest to strike a balance between deterring egregious misconduct and encouraging reasonable activity.

Section 3. {Definitions.} For the purposes of this Act, the meaning of the terms specified shall be as follows:
(A) "Clear and convincing evidence" means evidence which leaves no serious or substantial doubt about the correctness of the conclusions drawn from the evidence. It is more than a preponderance of evidence, but less than beyond a reasonable doubt.
(B) "Compensatory damages" means damages intended to make good the loss of an injured party and no more. The term includes general and special damages and does not include nominal, exemplary or punitive damages.
(C) "Defendant" means any party against whom punitive damages are sought.
(D) "Malice" means either conduct which is specifically intended by the defendant to cause tangible or intangible serious injury to the plaintiff or conduct that is carried out by the defendant both with a flagrant indifference to the rights of the plaintiff and with a subjective awareness that such conduct will
result in tangible serious injury.
(E) "Nominal damages" are damages that are not designed to compensate a plaintiff and are less than $500.
(F) "Plaintiff" means any plaintiff claiming punitive damages.
(G) "Punitive damages" includes exemplary or vindictive damages and means damages awarded against a party in a civil action because of aggravating circumstances in order to penalize and to provide additional deterrence against a defendant to discourage similar conduct in the future. Punitive damages do not include compensatory damages or nominal damages.
(H) "Drug," "device," "food," and "food additive" have the meanings defined in the "Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act."

Section 4. {Pleading Punitive Damages; Pre-Suit Notice}
(A) An award of punitive damages must be specifically prayed for in the complaint.
(B) The plaintiff must specifically plead either:
(1) that at least 30 days in advance of filing the complaint, that the plaintiff hasgiven notice of seeking damages pursuant to this Act and that in good faith a reasonable settlement could not be reached; or
(2) that such 30 days notice under this section could not be given because of exigent circumstances.
(C) The plaintiff shall not specifically plead an amount of punitive damages, only that such damages are sought in the action.
(D) The prayer for punitive damages shall be stricken prior to trial by the court, unless the plaintiff presents prima facie evidence sufficient to sustain an award of punitive damages under this Act to the court at least 30 days prior to trial.

Section 5. {Procedure for Award of Punitive Damages}
(A) All actions tried before a jury involving punitive damages shall, if requested by any defendant, be conducted in a bifurcated trial before the same jury.
(B) In the first stage of a bifurcated trial, the jury shall determine liability for compensatory damages and the amount of compensatory damages or nominal damages. Evidence relevant only to the issues of punitive damages shall not be admissible in this stage.
(C) Punitive damages may be awarded only if compensatory damages have been awarded in the first stage of the trial. An award of nominal damages cannot support an award of punitive damages.
(D) In the second stage of a bifurcated trial, the jury shall determine if a defendant is liable for punitive damages.
(E) Evidence of a defendant's financial condition or net worth is not admissible in the proceedings on punitive damages.
(F) In determining the amount of punitive damages, the trier of fact shall consider all relevant evidence, including:
(1) The severity of the harm caused by the defendant;
(2) The extent to which the plaintiff's own conduct contributed to the harm;
(3) The duration of the conduct, the defendant's awareness, and any concealment by the defendant;
(4) The profitability of the conduct to the defendant;
(5) Awards of compensatory and punitive damages to persons similarly situated to the plaintiff;
(6) Prospective awards of compensatory damages to persons similarly situated to the plaintiff;
(7) Any criminal penalties imposed on the defendant as a result of the conduct complained of by the plaintiff; and
(8) The amount of any civil fines assessed against the defendant as a result of the conduct complained of by the plaintiff.
(G) In determining the amount of punitive damages, the trier of fact shall not consider the wealth or financial condition of the defendant, but such evidence may be considered by the trial and appellate courts in determining whether the award is excessive.
(H) If a verdict is rendered awarding punitive damages, the trial court shall carefully review the decision of the trier of fact, considering all relevant evidence, including the factors identified in subsection (F), to ensure that the award does not exceed an amount necessary for the sake of example and to punish the defendant. Trial courts are to reflect in the record their reasons for interfering with a jury verdict, or refusing to do so, on grounds of excessiveness interfering with a jury verdict, or refusing to do so, on grounds of excessiveness of damages.
(I) The amount of punitive damages shall be reduced pursuant to the contributory or comparative fault principles of the law of this state. In any action in which there are two or more defendants, an award of punitive damages must be specific as to each defendant, and each defendant is liable only for the amount of the award made against that defendant.

Section 6. {Proof Required for Award of Punitive Damages.} Punitive damages may only be awarded if the plaintiff proves by clear and convincing evidence that his or her harm was the result of actual malice. This burden of proof may not be satisfied by proof of any degree of negligence including gross

Section 7. {Ceiling for Punitive Damages Award.} No award of punitive damages shall exceed two times the amount of the plaintiff's compensatory damages award or $250,000, whichever is greater. If the defendant is an individual or a business with 50 or fewer full-time employees, no award of
punitive damages shall exceed two times the amount of the plaintiff's compensatory damages or $250,000, whichever is less.

Section 8. {Availability of Punitive Damages.} Nothing contained in this Act is to be construed as to creating any claim for punitive damages which is not now present under the law of this state.

 Section 9. {FDA defense.}
(A) Punitive damages shall not be awarded if a drug or device or combination device or food or food additive which caused the claimant's harm:
(1) Was subject to premarket approval or licensure by the federal Food and Drug Administration under the "Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act," 52 Stat.1040, 21 U.S.C.Sec.301 et seq. or the "Public Health Service Act," 58 Stat.682, 42 U.S.C.Sec.201 et seq. and was approved or licensed; or
(2) Is generally recognized as safe and effective pursuant to conditions established by the federal Food and Drug Administration and applicable regulations, including packaging and labeling regulations.
(B) This exception shall not apply where the plaintiff proves by clear and convincing evidence that the product manufacturer:
(1) Knowingly and in violation of applicable agency regulations withheld or misrepresented information required to be submitted to the agency, which information was material and relevant to the harm in question; or
(2) Made an illegal payment to an official of the federal Food and Drug Administration for the purpose of securing approval of the product.

Section 10. {Severability Clause.}

Section 11. {Repealer Clause.}

Section 12. {Effective Date.} This Act shall be effective as to any civil suit for damages commenced on or after the date of enactment of the Act regardless of whether the claim arose prior to the date of enactment.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Workers' Rights: Wisdom and Warnings

President Harry Truman warned listeners of his day with these words: The only new thing in the world is the history you don’t know.

As Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, factions in the U. S. Congress, and ALEC move to erode and perhaps eliminate workers’ rights, it is your duty to know your history.

Photo by Al Griffin

Conventional Wisdom:

Some people claim that an unfettered marketplace is best. They argue that inferior products and business practices will wither as a result of market pressures. Believing that makers of these products have daring and cunning sufficient to create and strive, they persuade themselves that anyone else is a taker, a creature inferior, and in a modern-day version of Social Darwinism, can and should be cut like chaff from fine wheat.

The history of the marketplace is less persuasive, however. Consider:
  • Female teachers in the nineteenth century were paid 40-60% less than male teachers. Today, wage disparities still exist along gender lines in spite of consciousness raising and the recent Lily Ledbetter Law. Today’s woman in all professions earns less than her male counterpart, but the gap is closing. Teachers and their representatives have helped to bring about this progress through negotiated contracts that reward salaries according to education and experience, not gender.
  • Nineteenth-century coal miners accepted risk and hazards that we have since found unacceptable, and changes for the better were a consequence of organized labor negotiating and even striking in behalf of workers. The wars were bloody; the change hard fought.
  • Shirtwaist factory workers organized and struck in 1909 for better pay and working conditions. The owners of the Triangle Waist Factory never agreed to the terms, but even the improvements brought about by the strike would not have saved the 146 dead after a fire that the fire department, once on the scene, put out in 30 minutes. Fire hoses had no water source, the elevator and fire escape failed, and the nature of the work made the workplace highly flammable. The City of New York had to design new standards and attach penalties so that clothing makers were safer as they worked.
  • Since the 1980s, in an increasingly unregulated market, airlines have sought ways to catch up with the rising, racing costs of fuel, competitive markets, online ticketing, and employee benefits. One branch of this struggle has been to renegotiate pilot and attendant contracts in favor of longer hours and increased employee contributions toward health care and pension costs. By the 1990s, the FAA became aware of the effect upon safety. Pilot fatigue was a noted factor in crashes, but marketplace pressures delayed FAA intervention until 2011.

These four examples represent the trend from workers at the mercy of owners--the makers--to workers with better opportunities to attain the American Dream.  The examples should persuade you in favor of organized labor as an important force in securing equal opportunities for workers and the public safety. But…(you knew one was coming, right?)


Another of ALEC’s goals for 2014 is legislation to undermine unions in public service. Like Right to Work, an employee choice bill called the Public Employee Choice Act allows workers to opt-out of union representation while enjoying all the benefits of union negotiation. Such legislation sounds favorable, especially to those workers who see a useful chunk of their wages diverted to a union so why would anyone object to such choices for public workers? After all, this legislation seems to represent what we Americans value highly: the freedom to choose. But this legislation will have the net effect of eliminating our freedom to choose by giving one segment of society, the makers, permission to ignore organized labor public and private. It will also hinder a union's ability to thrive.

One of the most powerful political forces is organized labor.  Once upon a time, using money donated and certainly not stemming from union dues, organized labor affected political outcomes through advertising and campaign donations. In addition, unions were able to marshal their members as volunteers to knock on doors, distribute campaign information, and drive voters to the register and to vote. 

Now, a mere 11-12% of the work force continues to try to make a difference in the political and social landscape populated by employers who use their own bully pulpits to affect outcomes. The scales are heavily in favor of employers, especially after the Citizens United decision. Organized labor must continue to work in behalf of the greater good, not just a narrow population. They have made the workplace better.

Guard against voices that would erase the progress made through a century of struggle. Those voices may wish to alter your security and freedoms for decades to come.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

ALEC Seeks to Eliminate Occupational Licensing for Any Profession

Photo of Tank, the Watch-Cat. Photo taken by Al Griffin

Conventional Wisdom:

A system of licensing agents, oversight boards, and regulators insures that the contractors, builders, and repairmen I hire have met minimum standards. I can trust in a certain level of knowledge, but I’m not na├»ve. I know that professionals and service providers are not equal. Some are incompetent. A few may even be scam artists, frauds, or con-men--predators hunting for dollars, especially after a natural disaster or in times of emotional stress. As a consequence, whole industries designed to protect me and my dollar have come to life. I can now consult online reviews and even subscribe to lists that purport to offer trustworthy reviews. These resources warn us about plumbers, painters, contractors, attorneys, corporations, local businesses, and physicians who cause harm.

I count all of this regulation and information among my blessings. I live in a nation that will protect me against abuses and incompetence. 


Another of ALEC’s (American Legislative Exchange Council) 2014 legislative goals would tear away some regulation. According to the Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch (27 Dec 2013 online edition), ALEC plans measures “to eliminate occupational licensing for any profession, which help ensure that people who want to call themselves doctors, long-haul truckers, accountants, or barbers meet basic standards of training and expertise to guarantee that consumers are safe and get what they pay for. This extreme bill, called the ‘Private Certification Act’ swims against the current of what most people want, which are [sic] to be treated by professionals who meet standards for competence or safety that have been established by law through the democratic process.”

I must ask: why would anyone want to tear away the protections that we have put in place, protections that we have found beneficial to us all? Can anyone actually believe that human nature has suddenly changed, that men and women will, without incentive or consequence, undertake necessary training and apprenticeship to deliver a service as important as making medicine or performing surgery or installing electric lines. History simply suggests some will not. Ignorance, inexperience, and malicious intent persist, and we should not permit these from overtaking business, service, or professions.

I want teachers to have content knowledge. I want doctors to understand basic human biology and disease as well as effective treatments. I want plumbers to stop leaks, not create them. I need painters to use lead-free paint while avoiding drips and spills onto expensive flooring. I want cleaning crews and pest control workers to comprehend toxicity and pollution. I want clean food, free of chemicals. I want clean air and water. I want it all, and I don’t want ALEC to prevent me from having it

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

ALEC Wants To Keep Consumers From Knowing Which Country Provides Their Food

Bill O’Reilly is known for “Patriots and Pinheads” a recurring segment of his FOX program as well as a series of books celebrating those with whom O’Reilly agrees and mocking those with whom he does not. Stephen Colbert’s satirizes juxtapositions like O’Reilly’s, with “Tip of the Hat, Wag of the Finger,” and Jimmy Fallon finds humor with “Pros and Cons.” These contrasts, whether undertaken as political commentary or social satire, inform us, and it is in that vein that I introduce my own version, “Wisdom and Warnings.” 

"Ya Better Watch Out!"Photo of Tank,
A Cat Much Less Sinister Than He Here Appears. Photo by Al Griffin

Conventional Wisdom:

Once upon a time, certainly pre-Dust Bowl days, folks produced some of their own food and what they didn’t grow or raise themselves, they purchased from local sources. Refrigerated trucks, good roads leading to places where rails had never been laid, and chemical additives to preserve foods were in the nation’s future as were corporate farms and ranches.

Refrigeration and additives transformed food and food delivery in the 1940s, and people were grateful. My grandmother never failed to gasp and crow when she set foot in the market in her tiny, dusty town. Sliced, white bread, Wonder’s brand, was wonderful, she thought, and today, I’m sure she had in mind the labor-saving gift provided by this bread. 

Then, for her and many like her, the world seemed headed for enlightenment and prosperity, neither of which required men and women to sweat from field to table to produce just one loaf of bread. Now we pour ingredients into a machine, or we pick up a loaf at the corner convenience store. We never need to think about where it came from--or at least we never needed to think about it until the incidence of disease forced us to take another look.

Now we know that animal waste on unwashed produce can make us very sick and even kill the weaker among us. We know that slaughterhouses may co-mingle fecal matter and meat, that touching such tainted meat and not washing our hands thoroughly may lead to grief. We know that food handlers who fail to wash their hands transfer viruses, bacteria, and disease.

As a consequence, we require that food preparation areas be cleaned well; we even hire inspectors to insure the public safety.  Still, headlines and lead stories on the nightly news reports remind us that our regulations and oversight measures are insufficient to guarantee that every food, every morsel, is clean and safe. In fact, we’ve learned that we are doing harm to ourselves.

High fructose corn syrup, a bit cheaper than sugar, causes harm. Many hope to ban or significantly reduce its use.

And we’ve learned that transfats, guaranteed to deliver rich flavors cheaply, also deliver higher rates of obesity and heart disease. Many, Mayor Bloomberg in particular, have fought to regulate the use of transfats, and recently, the FDA agreed. 

Plastics too have taught us to rethink convenience. Plastic containers may be convenient and handy for food storage, sale and transportation, but they’ve also contributed to disease, even certain cancers. Now we regulate their use and composition, but we still have so far to go in protecting our environment from their ancestors and current incarnation

We’ve also learned that some food producers are more interested in profit than in the quality and quantity of life. Two tons of tainted meat found its way into the food chain by way of an illegal plant, and horse meat was being passed off as meat deemed acceptable for human consumption. Worse, perhaps, is the incidence of disease in animals that nevertheless become part of the food chain as happened in the U. S. through farms and food distributors in the Pacific Northwest. More recently, warnings about the fish from the same area have been issued after an earthquake and tsunami damaged Japanese nuclear power plants, causing them to leak into the ocean.

Surely these lessons teach us to us place our trust in regulation, research, and transparency because we now know
  • that producing huge quantities of food for markets across the land and world can lead to production lines that are not safe for our consumption;
  • that saving pennies with the use of high fructose corn syrup causes harm;
  • that banning transfats is a great idea;
  • that unregulated plastics may do irrevocable damage; and
  • that informing consumers about what is in food and where it came from allows them to make wise choices.
Nevertheless, warnings are in order:

The Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch (27 Dec 2013 online edition) reports that one of ALEC’s (American Legislative Exchange Council) 2014 goals will protect food producers and prevent consumers from making informed choices even though “More than 90 percent of consumers want labels saying what country the meat (and fruits, vegetables, and fish) they are buying comes from, according to polls."

Heed the warning, Reader. ALEC wishes to prevent you from knowing where your food comes from, and with ALEC’s track record on Stand Your Ground, education reform, and anti-workers' rights measures, this law opposing Country of Origin Labeling will soon appear in a State legislature of your choice.

But why would anyone seek to prevent consumers from making informed decisions? Is it in your best interest, or is it in the best interest of food producers and marketers.

I, for one, try not to buy Chinese farm-raised tilapia because I know that some Chinese tilapia farms use animal waste as fish food instead of more expensive feed, thus contaminating the water in which tilapia are raised and the fish taken from that water. I’m also worried because the FDA has recently approved the sale of food made in China using U.S. raised chicken, a compromise that opens trade from China to the U. S. while protecting U. S. consumers from Chinese birds that have frequently succumbed to avian influenza outbreaks. But how effective will inspections be? Is there a risk of chicken bred and raised in China entering our food supply?

As a consumer, I want the right to know if the tilapia or chicken I am about to feed to my family originated in the Pacific Northwest, China or the U. S. I want labels that tell me if the fish was plucked from fresh waters or farm-raised and where it was processed. Yet ALEC would like to draw a curtain between the wizard producing the food and poor little Dorothy just trying to get home. Don’t let them. Read more about County of Origina Labeling (COOL) here.