Tomorrow’s Lead Regulation Deadline Will Ruin Small Businesses

From the Coalition for Safe and Affordable Childrenswear
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Monday, February 09, 2009
CONTACT: Trey Ditto at tditto@rubenstein.com or 212-843-8063

The Childrenswear Coalition Warns Lawmakers: Tomorrow’s Lead Regulation Deadline Will Ruin Small Businesses. Without urgent action by Congress, runaway rules will force manufacturers out of business, cost thousands of jobs

NEW YORK – Tomorrow’s February 10 deadline to comply with the new federal lead regulations will lead to massive job losses in New York’s garment industry, as small manufacturers are forced to return upwards of $500 million in untested lead clothing from retailers with to 4,000 employees being laid off, according to the Coalition for Safe and Affordable Childrenswear (www.safechildrenswear.org). The only way to stop this catastrophe is by Congress intervening immediately.

“Congress has one more day to save thousands of jobs in New York and tens of thousands of jobs in America by demanding the Consumer Product Safety Commission fix these runaway regulations,” said Cory Silverstein, Executive President of Kids Headquarters and a Member of the Coalition Executive Committee. “If New York Members of Congress don’t intervene in the 11th hour and prevent these unrealistic rules from being applied retroactively to safe products already on the shelves, thousands of their constituents will be out of work and their districts will lose hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.”

Another course of action could be inserting Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R-SC) legislation into the stimulus plan. The bill, that costs nothing, calls for a delay in the rules to give the CPSC the time it needs to develop a balanced, sensible approach to testing and certifying children’s clothing and eliminating the retroactive implementation of the regulation by making the compliance deadline for the new standards a “manufactured by” date, not a “sell-by” date. Thus far, the bill has received no support from Democrats and its leadership.

“The only thing that makes less sense than the CPSC’s regulations is Congress refusing to use the stimulus bill to save thousands of good manufacturing jobs,” Silverstein said. “If they are willing to spend almost one trillion dollars on projects and programs they think will project jobs, you would think they would be thrilled to have the opportunity to keep thousands of Americans employed without spending one dime.”

The new federal rules, which implement new lead standards set by Congress in the Consumer Product Safety Improve Act (CPSIA) that was passed last year, would retroactively apply to children’s clothing already on store shelves and in the inventory pipeline, forcing manufacturers to take back upwards of $500 million in returns of safe products. A ruling by the Consumer Product Safety Commission delayed some testing requirements for a year and said retailers should act in good faith that their products are safe. This stay – deemed unacceptable by the coalition – has created mass confusion among retailers, who are erring on the side of caution and will return untested products to manufacturers.

“If these totally unreasonable and unrealistic regulations go into effect on February 10th, they will have a devastating impact on a critical small business sector in New York at the worst possible time, when retail sales are plummeting and our economy is losing jobs across the board,” said Steve Levy, Director of Operations of Star Ride Kids and member of the coalition’s executive committee. “Once the February 10 deadline passes, we expect to receive hundreds of boxes of clothing from our retailers who are erring on the side of caution and returning untested clothing. And if the Commission or Congress doesn’t act, small businesses will go bankrupt and thousands of employees will be laid off.”

The Coalition, which represents 130 small manufacturers in New York, said it fully supports the spirit of the new lead standards, but a broad mandate is reckless and unrealistic.

“Our Coalition is committed to producing clothing that is safe and healthy for children. We are parents as well as business people, and we take our responsibilities to our consumers extremely seriously,” said Silverstein. “But you can’t just take an ax to such a broad issue. Instead, the Commission must evaluate each industry.”
###

Cautious Optimism: Stay of enforcement

A variety of news worth mentioning:

CPSC: The CPSC released a Stay of Enforcement of Testing and Certification Requirements; (pdf) dated January 30, 2009. A cursory examination shows they get it. As debated previously regarding the question of which definitions were likely to define a “small business”, they’re using the SBA’s. In the case of children’s wear apparel producers, this encompasses 99% of businesses. Also see the CPSC press release explaining the matter. Another legal source is The Smart Mama. Further updates are forthcoming.

Legislative: Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) has announced he’s sponsoring legislation to amend the CPSIA. The bare bones of the plan are on his site; I’ll publish or link to final version once permitted to do so. Minimally, we extend a great deal of gratitude to Mr. DeMint and his legislative aides for crafting a proposal with the input of manufacturers. It is gratifying to be heard.

Retail: Anecdotal response from retailers has been mixed. Or rather, I should say one-sided. Retailers are concerned their liability has increased. All I’ve spoken to have said they intend to enforce existing CPSIA mandates on their vendors, requiring GCCs as previously stipulated.

Unresolved: Furthermore, extensive legal questions remain unresolved. There is little doubt special interest groups who promulgated this law’s passage will let yesterday’s stay of enforcement go unchallenged. Speaking of special interest groups, The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) filed filed an emergency stay of effective date (pdf) on January 28th with 77 signatory associations.

Note: I will be going to Washington DC Monday February 2, through Wednesday February 4th. More news upon my return.

This fight is far from over.

Alert the media! The CPSC has a sense of humor

Thanks to a tip from Mark Riffey (via Jennifer Taggert), the tubes are awash with the news of a seven minute interview of Julie Vallese, former (effective today) spokesperson of the Consumer Protection Safety Commission with KBAL TV in Baltimore.  Most people seem to be upset by it but I found it hilarious, reminiscent of Sister Mary Ignatius explains it all for you. Between insulting mommy bloggers (moi?), back pedaling and outright obfuscation, the video made for an evening of levity and intellectually ribald entertainment. That was sorely needed considering the recent strategies of special interest groups who are responsible for passage of this law in the first place. Anyway, Mark’s link to the video inspired me to find the transcript of the interview so I could examine the content more closely. Luckily enough, I found one! Well, maybe not the actual transcript but what appears below is a fairly accurate facsimile (minor edits are mine):

The missile knows where it is at all times. It knows this because it knows where it isn’t. By subtracting where it is from where it isn’t (or where it isn’t from where it is) it obtains a difference or deviation. The guidance system uses deviations to generate corrective commands to drive the missile from the position where it is, to the position where it isn’t. The missile arrives at the position where it wasn’t, consequently the position where it was, is now the position where it isn’t. In the event that the position where it is now, is not the same position where it originally wasn’t, the system has acquired a variation, the variation being the difference between where the missile is and where the missile wasn’t. Moreover, the missile must now know where it was also. The “thought process” of the missile is as follows: Because a variation has modified some of the information which the missile had obtained, it is not sure where it is. However, it is sure where it isn’t and it knows where it was. It now subtracts where it should be from where it wasn’t (or vice versa) and by differentiating this from the algebraic difference between where it shouldn’t be and where it was, it is able to obtain the difference between it’s deviation and it’s variation, this difference being called the Error.

In the end, is CPSIA is the missile and Julie is the Error? Ah, that could explain why she’s the former CPSC spokesperson.

Please take the Economic Impact Survey

I’m not above begging. Please take this survey I created in an attempt to measure the impact of the CPSIA (Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act) on small businesses like yours. It is industry neutral meaning it works for any industry so please pass the link around on line. Obviously, the goal is to attempt to measure the effects of the law on businesses which thus far, the CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) has implied would be negligible. Right. If you’re a larger concern, the AAFA created a survey that may be more appropriate but there’s no reason you couldn’t do both.

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.

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.

Video Testimony

Have you seen Rick Woldenberg’s speech at the CPSC conference on November 6? More interesting than you’d imagine, he brings up additional points regarding subassemblies in kitting, how commodities -sans lot numbers- are proposed to be tested and a whole lot more. While a larger enterprise, he cogently makes the case for even the smallest of producers stating that these regulations will eliminate specialty products sold to the blind and deaf among others. One thing I hadn’t considered; science kits for use in schools will cease to be saleable as currently known, many components of which the sources cannot be traced (consider a commodity like aluminum foil or the common paper clip) can’t be included within them. Considering the current state of science education in the U.S., this cannot be good news.

By the way, Rick Woldenberg is the person credited to have originated the phrase “National Bankruptcy Day” in relation to February 10, 2009.

You can also watch proceedings from the CPSC Public Meeting on Lead from Thursday, November 6, 2008
Videos from the meeting: