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

Published by

Kathleen Fasanella

Kathleen started production patternmaking in 1981. Starting in 1993, she began providing consulting and engineering services to manufacturers, small companies, and startups with an emphasis on developing owner-operator domestic cut-and-sew operations. In 2015 she opened a 5,000 sqft. fully equipped sewing factory: The Sewing Factory School. Kathleen is the author of The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Sewn Product Manufacturing, the most highly rated book of any topic in the garment industry. She's been mentioned numerous times in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, National Public Radio, Boston Globe, LA Times, Vogue, French Vogue and has at least 15 Project Runway alums at last count. Kathleen writes nearly all of the articles on Fashion-Incubator.com and hosts its forum, the largest private online community for apparel manufacturers on the web.

13 thoughts on “CPSIA activists hurting the cause!”

  1. I think there needs to be better studies done prior to putting laws restricting products. The flammability requirements for childrens’ sleepwear are characteristically flawed and do not contain the types of information to make any sort of a causal conclusion about the safety of sleepwear. There was also not sufficient long term studies of the chemicals that fabrics are treated with.

    I think this is just another example of the CPSC going overboard about an issue that is probably not really much of an issue. Maybe regulation should start with items being tested by the manufacturer this way the consumer would not even be able to buy a product that is inappropriate. Legislation needs to be carefully considered before it is made…this is yet another example of the US government being sloppy.

  2. Please take Kathleen’s words to heart and alter your message if you see it here. There is no real enemy here, just an inept Congress that passed a very bad piece of feel-good legislation without thinking it through. If you don’t beleive this, the only other conclusion you could draw is that Congress did indeed have a thorough understanding of the full scope of manufacturing, large and small, in this country. And, after what we’ve seen in the past year, can anyone really beleive that this Congress has a full and thorough understanding of anything?

    And, I suspect that the CPSC is not really the enemy either, although Kathleen brings up a valid point in an earlier post regarding potential political motivations of some of the higher ups at the agency. But, working in government myself, I’m guessing that most CPSC staff are probably just trying to figure out what to do with the mess that Congress created for them.

    I will cease to rant here and echo Kathleen’s words of caution. We need to frame our fight within the context of the law and its flaws, not point fingers at our large-scale colleagues. And yes, large manufacturers are our colleagues and more importantly, they have the means to yell louder. I’m not implying that our grassroots efforts are not important. On the contrary. We just all need to work together. Kathleen is helping us to do that with her work through AAFA and her recent trip to DC.

    One final though and I’ll shut up. It is VITALLY important that while we are fighting this issue that we impress upon anyone and everyone who will listen that we, as apparel manufacturers, are very concerned about child safety. Our issue is that this law, as written, imposes huge costs on our industry while providing little to no additional gains in child safety.

    Please alter your message if you’re sending the wrong one.

  3. I definitely took the intended purpose of the legislation into account when I wrote my letter.

    A sample of what I said (putting a human face on it):
    “I am a mother of two young children and while I applaud the new, more stringent testing requirements for mass-produced children’s merchandise, I am deeply saddened by the fact that this legislation, while on the surface necessary, is now so broad in scope and poorly defined that it will create more problems than it solves. […] While we are grateful that something is being done, it seems to have gone off the rails somewhere along the way.”

    I closed with:
    “The CPSIA needs to be modified before it goes into effect. It needs to be analyzed, its true costs measured, and its flaws remedied. I only hope you can help preserve the spirit of this legislation, while making it a realistic and useful part of our economic system.”

  4. I think it’s dead wrong to agree to complicity in any form over this heinous act by congress.

    This isn’t representation, it is dictatorial. I refuse to allow it to continue. I’m organizing a call list and need 200 volunteers to flood the phones for 2 days. I’m shooting for Wednesday, Dec 10 and Thursday, Dec 11. Please sign in to Etsy and sign up for duty:

    I don’t make children’s products, but that’s not the point. The point is this legislation is utter nonsense, no “improvements” will take place (we make the safest products in the world, for goodness’ sake) and prices go up on EVERYthing. The less money people have to spread around, the less they have to spend on MY business. That means I’m out of business, too. As if we all aren’t pushing hard enough in the current economic conditions.

  5. Um… Yeah, right. This is another NAIS. I’m just surprised it isn’t more blatant with exceptions for campaign donors. All legislation in Washington, D.C. is written by lobbyists these days. No one cares about the little guy. It doesn’t matter which industry.

    It is built into the system that the big guys are protected by legislation while the little guy gets hurt. This is just the way it is.

  6. I agree something needed to be done a long time ago. Disagree with the fact larger companies could qualify for government funding to have their products tested, I don’t have this same advantage.
    I disagree with the fact that 65 known cancer causing chemicals are inside car seats and that this information is not public noted inside the manuals of car seats. I disagree with the fact that knowing this, the CPSIA timeline does not include testing on car seats and or booster seats.
    I firmly believe testing of products should of been done a long time ago before they hit the retail shelves, and I must ask myself, who is at fault for allowing products to enter in to the United States, where these products sit on a retail shelf and then sold to the consumers. Who was suppose to test these foreign products? Why were these products not tested a long time ago by the United States or required of companies over sea’s to produce a lead rate for our own compliance here in the United States.
    Flame retardant has all sort of chemicals. It’s one of the things in fabric to keep a child safe inside a car seat, what they wear to bed, so they do not burn.
    Most of the food companies are allowed to add chemicals to the food all humans consume that would over time kill rats. But we eat it any ways, we just can’t avoid all the chemicals even if we try very hard to protect ourselves and our children.
    High Fructose Corn Syrup is a hazard to all human consumption, but the FDA allows this to be placed in all sort of fruit juices that children consume every single day.
    I think if the United States wants to force in to act anything. It should start with enforcing that anything brought in to the United States must pass strict guidelines or be sent back or destroyed, not end up on the retail shelves for consumers to purchase, for children to become ill, filled with lead.
    Products that all children touch, eat, sleep on and use should of been tested a long time ago.
    One must ask, why all the United States manufactures went scouting over sea’s to produce and manufacture their products to start with. ?
    We would have to go back to where this started and correct the problem.

  7. Swarvoski does make lead free crystals so how are you absolutely certain that the pacifiers you refer to contained lead. This is splintering the cause too.

  8. Swarvoski does make lead free crystals so how are you absolutely certain that the pacifiers you refer to contained lead. This is splintering the cause too.

    If that is the only thing you can say after reading this entry, then I can only surmise you’re trying to be argumentative. How did I know? Well, I can’t know other than that the vendor claimed these were genuine Swarvoski lead crystals. So no, I didn’t drag out my XRF testing gun and you’re right, it wouldn’t be the first time someone improperly marketed their product.

    I should have been more clear. My quarrel was not so much lead as it was that ANYTHING glued on -especially to a pacifier!- constitutes a choking hazard. There’s existing CPSC regulations banning crap like this.

    Many indie producers are not well informed about existing laws or bans much less about this new one. Of the ones that do know, again, many think because they’re so small, the law doesn’t apply to them. You can go on Etsy and find page after page of products that defy existing laws and regulations (and the CPSC knows it). Or, they think that because they are a nice person and a small indie crafter made with all the good intentions in the world, that their products are safe. I don’t expect you to like this but as a percentage of total production, large companies put out safer products than tiny independents. They can’t escape notice as easily. If anything, this law is going to force crafters who are serious about it to become more professional.

  9. On the most recent update for it, I was noticing this part of the wording:

    Sellers of used children’s products, such as thrift stores and consignment stores, are not required to certify that those products meet the new lead limits, phthalates standard or new toy standards.

    The new safety law does not require resellers to test children’s products in inventory for compliance with the lead limit before they are sold. However, resellers cannot sell children’s products that exceed the lead limit and therefore should avoid products that are likely to have lead content, unless they have testing or other information to indicate the products being sold have less than the new limit.

    It seems to me that these statements are completely contridictory. Thrift stores, by law, don’t have to submit their products for testing, but at the same time, they can’t sell anything that’s over the legal limit. How are they to know what is or isn’t over the limit unless it’s tested? They’re just supposed to guess at the levels, and if it’s over they’ll be fined?!

    Absolutely ridiculous.

  10. Hello,
    My name is Dawn LaPolla and I own Baby Sprout Naturals. I urge you to visit http://www.ReformCPSIA.org. I am working with Rachele Dressler-Sweetser to gather supporters for the lawsuit. The site will have information regarding the suit and I will be updating it regularly – Please subscribe so that you may receive updates when posted.

    If you are interested in participating in the lawsuit you may submit a request form via the website. Just follow the links and the form will be at the bottom of the page. You are under no obligation by filling out the form.

    I also urge you to sign the petition I sponsor here: http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/reform-cpsia-hr4040.html#sign

    Dawn Michelle
    Baby Sprout Naturals.com

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