Endorsement of the NAM Plan

On December 18, 2008, The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) submitted an exhaustively inclusive 15 page document (pdf) in response to the CPSC’s request for comments. It is the position of this site to heartily endorse this plan. Furthermore, NAM is commended for their proactive action in this matter.

Other entities supporting the plan:

  • American Apparel & Footwear Association
  • Association of American Publishers
  • Book Manufacturers Institute, Inc.
  • Fashion Jewelry Trade Association
  • Juvenile Product Manufacturers Association
  • National Association of Manufacturers
  • National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers
  • National Retail Federation
  • Retail Industry Leaders Association
  • Printing Industries of America
  • Specialty Graphic Imaging Association
  • Toy Industry Association
  • Fashion-Incubator.com

Feel free to comment if you’re not represented by one of these groups. For the greatest impact, consider printing the plan and mailing it to the address included in the header. Be sure to include your contact information with your statement that you support it.

Urgent: Please collect lab price quotes

Thanks to your efforts, we’ve gained the ear of key legislators and media. However, as no law maker wants to be known as “the legislator who wants to put lead back in toys,” we need documentation. Now. If you’ve gotten any price quotes, please send those as they are desperately needed. If you prefer, you can upload them at CPSIA Central.

One senator — a sponsor of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act — who understands manufacturing, has also requested testing time estimates. He wants to know how long will it take for lab results to be returned to you. In other words, he understands that waiting on testing for several weeks can amount to unanticipated losses, particularly if delivery deadlines are missed due to a lengthened production schedule.

If you have requested a price quote and have not received one, please send a statement that includes the date of your submission, to whom it was sent, a description of the product, a description of the testing requested (if known) and your contact information. Rob Wilson — who’s been waiting five business days for a price quote — mentions Bureau Veritas won’t even give estimates. This and related information is likewise useful as it demonstrates one is compelled to commit to testing without knowing the costs.

CPSIA vs Science Round 3; Congress wins by a KO!

The easy winner in round three of Congress versus science, Congress wins by a knock out! Yeah Congress! Boo Science!

To: judith.bailey@mail.house.gov, Christian.Fjeld@mail.house.gov, brian.mccullough@mail.house.gov, shannon.weinberg@mail.house.gov, william.carty@mail.house.gov, nnord@cpsc.gov, jmartyak@cpsc.gov, MToro@cpsc.gov, tmoore@cpsc.gov, Cathy.hurwit@mail.house.gov

Judy and Christian,

I thought you would be interested to know that I was informed today that one of the leading U.S. suppliers of science educational materials has suspended sales of all light bulbs (principally microscope light bulbs) owing to the little dot of solder found on the bottom. Apparently this little dot of solder makes those bulbs just too dangerous to sell into schools, despite the fact that no microscope bulb has ever harmed anyone from exposure to its little dot of solder. To my knowledge, there is no available substitute on the market for this ten cent item. This is EXACTLY what I predicted in my CPSC presentation on November 6. As my email from Friday indicated, it is no longer economic to sell telescopes either. Can someone explain to me what Congress had in mind with this law? Has Congress decided to delegate scientific pursuits to the Germans, Japanese or Chinese so Americans can be “safer”? Or is Congress hoping we will all move back into caves to adopt a “safer” lifestyle?

I still have kids in school. Your law makes illegal or uneconomic those implements they need for an adequate education. I can’t escape the reach of the CPSIA by sending my children to private school – the ridiculous strictures of the CPSIA follows them everywhere in this country. Will I have to send them to boarding school in another country so they can look through a microscope or a telescope? What’s Congress’ master plan?

Richard Woldenberg
Chairman
Learning Resources, Inc.

Astronomy is boring anyway, who needs it?

Now we can thank Congress for eliminating the drudgery of astronomy curriculum. Yeah! No More Telescopes!

To: Judith.bailey@mail.house.gov, Christian.fjeld@mail.house.gov
Cc: nnord@cpsc.gov, jmartyak@cpsc.gov, tmoore@cpsc.gov, jmullan@cpsc.gov, Brian_hendricks@hutchison.senate.gov, david@commerce.senate.gov, Shannon.weinberg@mail.house.gov, Brian.mccullough@mail.house.gov, Cathy.hurwit@mail.house.gov, “Larry Lynn” <LLynn>, MToro@cpsc.gov, william.carty@mail.house.gov, patrick.magnuson@mail.house.gov

Subject: No More Telescopes – Congress Wants You To Squint Instead

I am writing to follow up on the below email on the cost of testing under the CPSIA. The attached document is a quote we received to test ONE telescope product under the CPSIA. The cost of the testing is a mere $24,050 for this single item. The average annual sales of this item are approximately $32,000 over the past two years. Needless to say, we cannot afford to spend $24,050 to test this (or any) item. I presume that Congress intended this result and wants us to stop selling telescopes to keep everyone safe. I guess kids can see the planets by squinting from now on. Thanks, Congress!

This absurd result is increasingly common under the destructive and poorly-conceived CPSIA. It is not surprising to me that a law born out of anger and written in a spirit of retribution has created market chaos and many unintended consequences. In my prior correspondence, I have set out many dangerous and unacceptable effects that are wreaking havoc among law-abiding companies. Good corporate citizenship is no help when facing a law which markets itself as “pro-safety” but cripples companies with unbearable financial burdens and pointlessly complex compliance requirements that redirect safety investments into bureaucracy. The CPSIA is simply an invitation by the Federal Government for all children’s products companies to find something else to do.

My letters to you are of public record. We are posting them on the Internet for all to see and read. These letters have put you on notice of many problems the CPSIA is creating. When the damage takes place, there will be no way for legislators to disclaim responsibility. I don’t want to see the destruction happen, which is why I keep writing you. It is unnecessary and will have lasting effects if not arrested now. I call on you and on Congress to act promptly to convene hearings on the effects of the CPSIA on commerce and markets, and to take immediate steps to partner with industry and the CPSC to rebuild a truly effective CPSIA to address real (not imaginary) children’s products safety issues. A stripped down, but focused, CPSIA could add a great deal of safety value without weakening companies, markets and the economy. A vindictive CPSIA salted with bitter distrust and enmity toward industry will simply gut markets and weaken the regulators’ ability to patrol markets for real safety issues. The choice is obvious – I urge Congress to choose the right path for our country.

Sincerely,

Richard Woldenberg
Chairman
Learning Resources, Inc.

CPSIA is saving our schools, one kindergardner at a time

From: Rick Woldenberg
Sent: Wednesday, November 26, 2008 12:34 PM
To: Mary Toro (MToro@cpsc.gov); Nancy Nord (nnord@cpsc.gov); Joe Martyak (jmartyak@cpsc.gov); ‘tmoore@cpsc.gov’; ‘jmullan@cpsc.gov’; ‘Judith.bailey@mail.house.gov’; ‘Cathy.hurwit@mail.house.gov’; ‘Christian.fjeld@mail.house.gov’; ‘Brian.mccullough@mail.house.gov’; ‘Shannon.weinberg@mail.house.gov’; ‘Brian_hendricks@hutchison.senate.gov’; ‘david@commerce.senate.gov’

Subject: Cost of Testing

Mary,

I want to continue our dialogue over the issues presented by the CPSIA. I realize you are swamped with inquiries from many sectors, so I thought I would send this comment in via email.

I have previously raised the serious issue of the high cost of testing under the CPSIA. To be clear, the issue is not about the testing per se, rather it is the cost of the testing to prove compliance with the CPSIA. It is our legal obligation to produce products that comply with the law, of course. Financing proof of that compliance is the problem that confronts industry right now.

The attached lab test is a great example of the dilemma caused by the CPSIA testing requirements. The item in question is a new item called Let’s Tackle Kindergarten. This item is similar to other items in our product line and is quite uncontroversial from a safety standpoint. Because of our experience testing virtually identical items, we know this item is in compliance with the CPSIA on phthalates, lead and its other requirements. Nevertheless, to prove compliance, we will apparently have spend $6,144.06 on myriad tests. The product will be no more or less safe after this expenditure. No child will be safer or better protected. Our company will simply be much poorer.

High testing costs will have a significant effect on our business and businesses like ours. First, the cost of testing has increased about 5x – 20x under the new law. We do not believe these costs can be recovered because under current economic conditions, raising prices is not an option. Thus, the breathtaking increase in cost becomes part of our overhead.

The testing costs cannot be absorbed by small and medium-sized businesses. At typical net profit levels prevailing in the children’s products industry, the $6,144 cost of testing probably exceeds the anticipated total net profit derived from three or more years’ sales of the item. This does NOT take into account the cost of development, the cash expense of buying the inventory or the cost of owning inventory (usually estimated at 2.5% per month). Given that children’s products have finite commercial lives (three years is a good life for a consumer product), the CPSIA test costs might exceed the present value of creating a new item for many, if not most, businesses. So, will this product ever come to market? Not under the CPSIA. The only products left for sale will be mass market items where the scale of their production runs can support this wasteful expense. I believe this “mass market world” is not in the national interest as specialty companies like Learning Resources are an important means by which consumers obtain the products and services they need in our economy.

Notably, the gross cash expense required to finance these tests right now is literally unbearable. The law requires that all of this testing must be completed on all products in our line all at once. Several years of “catch-up” testing must be financed in just a matter of a couple months, bunching up the vast expense into one or two financial statements. Together with other excessive costs suddenly imposed by the CPSIA (for instance, lot traceability infrastructure), the economics of producing children’s items are being distorted into an unrecognizable form. If children’s products companies cannot produce a fair profit, they won’t be able to attract financing or risk capital, and the jobs (and products) will disappear. This problem needs a solution fast, and if we can’t come up with one, no one in Congress or the CPSC should be surprised to see bankruptcies rise inexorably as a result. The price will be paid.

I would appreciate the opportunity to dialogue with you on these rules and other negative incentives under the CPSIA. I am confident that through a partnership with industry, the CPSC can develop a common sense approach to safety rules and enforcement that will reward those companies committed to compliance while discouraging the bad actors who give the children’s products industry a bad name. The time to act is now. My associates in the business community are under intense pressure to pay these exorbitant testing bills – and once the money is shipped to the Chinese testing companies, there will be no getting it back.

Thank you for considering my views on this important topic.

Sincerely,
Richard Woldenberg
Chairman
Learning Resources, Inc.

Watch the CPSC FAQs

From Mike Lee owner of Sarah’s Silks. Item #3 is particularly important for kindred.

I just spoke with Mary Toro, of the CPSC. She gave me quite a bit of specific information regarding our own products and compliance, but also some general information that I think would be useful for other manufacturers.

  1. suggested I check CPSC web site FAQ’s on CPSIA on a daily basis at this time as she expects a lot decisions to be posted this week. These are very specific answers to questions such as are shoes and socks subject to Phthalate regulations.
  2. discussion on exemption for textiles from phthalate standards. She definitely does not see CPSC granting an exemption for textiles due to the problem of those little plastic footsie things on baby and toddler pajamas which have used phthalates. So perhaps a case could be made for pushing for uncoated textiles.
  3. she is expecting a ruling or at least a posting on FAQ on the issue of component testing vs whole product testing in the next few days.

Activists Meet Up!

In the interests of promoting greater unity in the CPSIA fight and given that Fashion-Incubator has had the most active participation with solid information (no mythinformation or rumors), the CPSIA section of the forum has been opened to the public. At last count there are 40 different threads, nearly 700 posts and thousands upon thousands of views. Anyone can read, post, create stickies, announcements etc in this section (all other sections of the forum are closed to the public unless you join).

In participating, act as you would sitting in someone’s living room. Please don’t post “is my [child related] product exempt” because it isn’t. It just isn’t. Likewise, any posts containing rumors, unsubstantiated claims or mythinformation will be removed. I realize it will be difficult and time consuming to read through some of the multi page threads but please make use of the search feature because it is likely your question has been answered. As most of them have been; we’re focusing on activism at this point.

Speaking of activism, there is now an automated method of emailing all of your legislators from one simple window. Scroll down, fill out the form (don’t forget to include your state of residence) and all of your senators and congressmen will receive your message.

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