Congressional hearing canceled!

The Rush hearing (chaired by Bobby Rush, D-IL) we’d been pinning our hopes on to make our case before Congress next Wednesday, has been canceled. Rick Woldenberg (the guy in the YouTube videos) says:

I admire the work you are doing, and hope you will stick to it. I was due to testify at the Rush hearings next Wednesday but they were canceled which is an opportunity missed. I think our message is being heard, but there is no conviction to do anything about it -yet. I have some thoughts on further correspondence to move the ball down field, but frankly, time is working against us now. So this is a great time to step up the pressure. Your contacts should keep the pressure on Congress, especially members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. I will send you many emails with lots of relevant info. I will also add you to my mailing list, so you can see what I am up to.

The wiki entry for the United States House Committee on Energy and Commerce lists all the members of the committee and subcommittees with links to their respective pages. The less useful official US government site is here. Feel free to contact members of the committee, more so if they represent your district.

How everyone can get a CPSIA exemption

Understandably, many people have been asking on Fashion-Incubator and on various forums whether their product is exempt. Some post claims they are not (using unsubstantiated sources) which is a disservice feeding false hopes. Among them, I’ve yet to see a child related product that really is exempt. The climate was no different at the meeting I attended in Washington this week. It’s easy to understand why. We’re all drowning men, clutching at any driftwood that’ll save us. But as one person suggested, this is the wrong strategy.

Everybody is scrambling to find wiggle room using narrow definitions in an attempt to exclude themselves from the law, desperate to save their own skins. It’s understandable, survival and all. But strategically, that is the wrong thing to do. All of us are better served by coming together to define the rules BROADLY to encompass everyone for two reasons.

  1. The CPSC doesn’t have the infrastructure to process and rule on the flood of exemption requests. They don’t have the man power to deal with it so if any manage to squeak through, these businesses will be unfairly advantaged over others who may have similar legitimate claims.
  2. More of us lose through splintering because assuming the CPSC can come up with a bunch of narrow definitions; it’s not likely to solve but one of a few of our problems; most people will still be hanging out to dry. More stand to lose with narrow definitions than broad ones.

Rather, we are better served by centralizing focus on broad exemptions, not narrow ones. Every man for himself is the wrong strategy to employ when everyone is affected. At this rate, we’re our own worst enemies (divided we fall) because splitting into narrow definitions splinters the whole cause. Let’s say you’re lucky enough to get your exemption that magically covers the gamut of your product line (as if), does that save your colleagues? How much pleasure can you take in surviving when you’re the only one left standing? On Fashion-Incubator, probably less than 30% of the designers make kids stuff but as far as I can tell, they’re all pulling together for their colleagues who are affected.

In summary, I do not want to read any more comments asking if one’s products made from 100% organic fabric (woven by leprechauns) and made via fair-trade (sewn by well paid fairies) using carbon neutral sustainable power (unicorns pulling a water wheel) and are certified to be the singular example of 100% purity by G-d, The Trinity, Mohammad, and Gaia combined [-and you are a nice good person and a widow, single mom, single dad, working family, reformed attorney or recovering engineer (pick one)] are exempt because if you have to ask, they most likely are not. The strategy should be broad enough to cover your neighbor and even the plant down the street, not just yourself. It’s time to pull together. As Rick Woldenberg says, it’s time to ply the pressure on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Here I have posted a tremendous amount of material Rick Woldenberg has sent me with lots of juicy .gov email addresses to harvest!

By the way, this site is really ugly, can anybody lend a hand with design?

CPSIA activists hurting the cause!

Judging from the dramatic increase in postings I’m seeing on other forums and blogs, the mission has finally gone viral with several news stories purportedly in the works. Yeah us. But, I’m p.o’ed. Welcome back Kathleen!

There is one common theme I’m reading that has me very upset -other than the outright fabrications and rumors. Repeatedly, people are framing this as an issue of large vs small manufacturers. Small manufacturers are either saying this CPSIA mess was a strategy cooked up by the big guys to eliminate competition or that this legislation will hurt small players more than large ones. Both of these positions are false. You lose -we lose- a lot of credibility if you take either position so just stop it, stop it now. I’ll explain why we lose if people keep repeating these two messages.

Here’s why large manufacturers are hit worse than small ones:

  • They are more visible, they can’t hide.
  • Their customers are better informed.
  • They have factoring and loans.

There’s thousands of small manufacturers hiding, sewing in their guest bedroom, selling consumer direct and hoping that the authorities don’t catch up with them. Few of your customers will know to ask if you are compliant. If you have any financing, it’s either credit cards, a personal loan or heaven forbid, home equity. Large manufacturers have no such benefits.

Issue #1, being larger, big manufacturers make a better target; they’re easier to hit. It’s easier to go after them than the thousands of you. Much more bang for the buck as far as enforcement dollars are concerned and you’d better believe agency funding is contingent upon ROI too. Second, their customers aren’t blissfully unaware Etsy buyers. No, their customers are big box retailers who have cadre of attorneys who are concerned about their own liability. Speaking of, large retailers will be hit hard so stop saying they’re in on the plot too. They’re not going to take a chance on stocking product that’s not compliant. As such, they are making a lot of demands on manufacturers, some of which are not warranted by the CPSIA guidelines so that’s a whole other story but suffice to say, your customers aren’t twisting your arms. Lastly, as I said before, manufacturers take out loans which are legal contracts. For the contract to be legal, the goods must be legally sale able. If the goods aren’t compliant, they’re not legal and so no loans. And yes the factors loaning money are well aware of this for those who keep asking. You’re not the only entity who needs credit to keep your enterprise going between product cycles. The truth is closer to “the bigger they are, the harder they fall”.

Issue #2, I know who started the rumor that this was a ploy of large manufacturers to put small ones out of business but I won’t dignify him with a link. Get real. You are not a threat. This posture is narcissistic and grandiose. How are you that important? Your two hundred units a year is a big deal to you but they don’t even feel it. Why would you presume to be worth the effort of a hare-brained scheme to undermine you? It’s really insulting too. Do you presume they’re so money hungry they roll drunks too? Who has the time? I think Rick Woldenberg’s defense of small businesses was not just genuine and impassioned, it was based on business pragmatics. He buys a lot of stuff from small manufacturers in addition to making his own stuff. If you go out of business, that hurts his bottom line. So why would you repay someone like Mr. Woldenberg with these childish accusations? It is embarrassing that I even have to write something like this publicly. How can you expect the press and politicos to take you seriously if you say things like this?

But that’s not the biggest problem. The issue is splintering activism. This isn’t a fight against big manufacturers, it’s a fight against a law passed by Congress so these two positions are just stupid. Is your intended goal to have Congress shut down all the big guys or to rescind the legislation? If it is to put the big boys out of business then sit tight, Congress has done everything but nail the coffin shut. You’re the ones who can skate by. And by the way, since we’re on the topic, I will continue to delete vapid comments from people who blame Obama when he’s not even president. If you are compelled to blame a president, blame the one who signed the bill into law.

The issue is, if you make the weak points that this is a conspiracy of big manufacturers out to get you, you’re going to lose all credibility because the people that matter, the ones who can cover this story in the press, have enough sophistication to understand the dynamics of retail and you’ll look grandiose and ignorant of business matters or like a wild eyed conspiracy theorist. Neither position is credible or attractive.

Some other ideas mucking things up:

  • The problem is not component testing so stop saying that. Yeah, I get it, component testing is expensive but it’s still a money saver over unit testing which is what we’re required to do.
  • Small businesses produce better and safer products than large ones. The opposite is more likely to be true. Did you see the pacifiers with 98% lead swarovski crystals glued to them by a home “artisan”?
  • Being against the proposed legislation does not mean we support selling dangerous products. The problem is, this law will put out the very people who are already following safety guidelines. It’s larger manufacturers, not smaller ones who tend to be more compliant. You might not like that but it’s true.
  • This law will not put the bad eggs out of business. If they didn’t care about previous guidelines, this law won’t stop them either.

Previous entries in this series:
New product safety regulations that affect all manufacturers
CPSIA Requirements
National Bankruptcy Day
CPSIA: Unit vs Component Testing
CPSIA: What must be tested
Up, up and away…
CPSIA: Confusion run amok