Thursday, January 8, 2009

Letter to House Small Business Committee 1-8-09

From: Rick WoldenbergSent: Fri 1/9/2009 1:43 AM
To: erik.lieberman@mail.house.govCc: Stephen Lamar (slamar@apparelandfootwear.org); Etienne Veber; Michael Gidding (mjg@brown-gidding.com); Rob Wilson (rob@challengeandfun.com); Patrick Magnuson (patrick.magnuson@mail.house.gov); kathleen@fashion-incubator.com; Nancy Nord (nnord@cpsc.gov); Joe Martyak (jmartyak@cpsc.gov); tmoore@cpsc.gov; cfalvey@cpsc.gov; Mary Toro (MToro@cpsc.gov); Christian Tamotsu Fjeld (Christian.Fjeld@mail.house.gov); Judy Bailey (judith.bailey@mail.house.gov); Robin Appleberry (robin.appleberry@mail.house.gov); bob_adler@unc.edu; Pamela Gilbert (pamelag@cuneolaw.com)Subject:
RE: CPSIA and Small Business

Erik,

It was nice to speak to you today. I am glad to know that you will be working with the House Energy and Commerce Committee on the issues threatening Small Business under the CPSIA. These issues are rather serious for many industries, and frankly, the negative impact is similar for companies of all sizes. If relief is appropriate for Small Business, I urge your committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee to write a rational set of new rules relating to safety for all companies selling children's products. That's all any of us want - we are just as interested in safe products as Congress. I appreciate your interest in this issue.

I thought you might find the attached letter from Rep. Anthony Weiner interesting. Rep. Weiner makes a number of important observations. He notes the total chaos being created in the clothing marketplace (a good example of the vast reach of this law) where commercial relationships are being actively destroyed and confidence rocked over suspicions of lead content in products well-known to be safe. The problems he cites are typical under this law and are not restricted to the clothing industry. There is NO doubt that the market confusion derives from widespread belief that existing inventory is safe. It is simply ridiculous to contend that companies participating at all levels of the children's products industry are so morally-debased that they would have been consistently fobbing off poisonous products throughout the economy - naturally, the entire supply chain is in shock that these products might become contraband in a few weeks. Rep. Weiner also observes that "the confusion surrounding the implementation of this legislation has encouraged many retailers to develop their own rules interpreting these provisions . . . creating a confusing situation that is intolerable." Rep. Weiner is right. It is definitely happening all over America in many industries with increasing intensity, appears to be utterly unstoppable and is immensely destructive of commercial relations and trade. Rep. Weiner is right that this is an INTOLERABLE situation. Where I might differ from his apparent view is that I do not feel this is the fault of the CPSC. The law itself is fatally flawed and no amount of CPSC FAQs, legal opinions, interpretations or convoluted rules and regulations can fix a law that never made sense in the first place. What will Congress do about the mess it has created? Your committee may be the place where the work begins!

Finally, I hope you will watch this short video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oqKjJgdUZ3E. Even allowing for creative license, this video eloquently states the case on the CPSIA. Industry is NOT opposed to safety - but in the real world, we (manufacturers, distributors, consumers, regulators, legislators) need to focus on real, actual safety risks, and not muddy the waters with overly-broad laws that make commerce impossible on the unaccountable justification that we will all be "safer". Let's not let this self-inflicted injury devastate the smooth functioning of our economy - there is still time to take action and FIX this situation.

Please do not hesitate to contact me at any time if I can be helpful.

Sincerely,

Richard Woldenberg
Chairman
Learning Resources, Inc.
rwoldenberg@learningresources.com

4 comments:

Sari Powazek said...

With consumer confidence in the economy at a low, the last thing that my customers want to worry about is the safety of the toys that they purchase for their children. They come to my store because they know that we have safe, quality toys. If I have to start removing items from my shelf because they do not have the required COC, even though during the rash of recalls I only had to remove Thomas items, their confidence will be shaken. I deal with companies that do their utmost to manufacture safe toys, well below the USA level of acceptance. I support safety in everything that involves life; children, adults, animals & plants. Why are the small Mom & Pops being penalized for the mistakes that the giants of the industry created by their lack of testing & lack of responsibility?

Rick Woldenberg, Chairman - Learning Resources Inc. said...

What a great and important observations! Tell your Congressman and Senator. Thanks. Rick

Brent Taylor said...

I believe that the root of this problem was recalls that were the result of certain mass retailers applying too much pressure on certain manufacturers to lower production costs. Ironically, it is these mass retailers and large manufacturers that are most equipped to survive this nonsense.
As small business owners we are being penalized for mistakes that we not only didn't commit, but in fact have always strived to counteract in the first place.

Rick Woldenberg said...

It's hard to say why some companies failed in 2007 and others didn't. Some failed through ignorance, some through institutional failure and lack of coordination, some through serious misjudgment (or worse?) and some because they were just plain unlucky. I am hesitant to conclude that punishment for the failure of others is EVER appropriate. It would like putting everyone on your block in jail because one of your neighbors committed a crime. We have to make sure Congress knows how we feel and demand changes. If we act as a community, unified across industry types and not allowing fractures across special interest lines, we may be able to become powerful enough to get our way. Let's keep at it!

Rick