Monday, November 30, 2009

Press Release: Buy Handmade this Holiday Season

Montpelier, VT – November 30, 2009– The Handmade Toy Alliance (HTA) urges parents and grandparents to give handmade gifts to the children in their lives this holiday season. This year more than any other, small batch makers of toys, clothes, and accessories need their customers' support.

It's been a challenging year for all of involved in making or selling handmade children's goods,” said HTA President Cecilia Leibovitz of Craftsbury Kids (VT). “We've all been working all year to understand and adapt to the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008, which requires us to perform many of the same tests as Mattel and other large manufacturers. Now that the Holidays are here, though, we're happily focusing our energies on what really matters—delighting children with unique gifts”.

To help connect shoppers with unique gifts, the HTA has developed an easy to use listing of featured members, which includes business profiles and links to member websites. “It's an easy way to find a special gift,” said HTA board member Heather Flottmann of Liliputians NYC (NY). “We have so many wonderful little companies offering gifts that you'll never find at Wal-Mart or Target.”

When you buy handmade, you're getting something that can't be found in a factory made product,” said Jolie Fay of Skipping Hippos (OR). “You're getting a gift made with love, not just for money. It's a tangible connection to thousands of years of human history in which toys and clothes were made by people, not machines. Children really do understand and appreciate the difference.”

As for the CPSIA, HTA members remain hopeful that common sense will prevail in Washington so that their businesses will survive. “This is a long term struggle,” said Leibovitz, “But one way or another I'm sure we will prevail. We'd just like to get back to making wonderful and delightful children's goods instead of writing letters to Congress.”

So, on behalf of the 399 business members of the Handmade Toy Alliance, we wish everyone a very happy holiday season,” said Leibovitz.

The HTA includes retail stores, toymakers and children's product manufacturers from across the country who want to preserve consumer access to unique handmade toys, clothes and all manner of small batch children's goods in the USA. Formed in November of 2008 in response to the CPSIA, HTA members are parents, grandparents and consumers who are passionate about their businesses as well as the safety of the children in their lives. While in support of the spirit of the law, the unintended consequences of the CPSIA have motivated members of the HTA to work to enact change at a federal level.

"Holly Berry Girls" ornaments by mooshoopork via the Flikr catalog of endangered childrens' goods.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Are You Really A CPSIA Victim?

The following is a repost of a blog entry by Whimsical Walney, a fellow CPSIA activist:

Main Entry: vic·tim Pronunciation: \ˈvik-təm\Function: noun Etymology: Latin victima; perhaps akin to Old High German wīh holy Date: 15th century
1 : a living being sacrificed to a deity or in the performance of a religious rite

2 : one that is acted on and usually adversely affected by a force or agent s of the social system>: as a (1) : one that is injured, destroyed, or sacrificed under any of various conditions cancer> auto crash> (2) : one that is subjected to oppression, hardship, or mistreatment b : one that is tricked or duped >

Source: Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

I wanted to wait a little bit before posting my reaction to the NY Times piece about the CPSIA. The CPSIA Twitter stream showcased a positive reaction from those involved and Walter Olson did a usual spot-on post how it’s about time the NY Times weighed in.

So the fact that I seemed to be the only one (at least that I could tell) for whom the article left a bad taste made me take pause. Add to the mix that the Handmade Toy Alliance has been working so hard to bring this issue to the fore; to bring the facts about how CPSIA hurts small business to consumers nationwide and I felt it would diminish their efforts. I was proud to see people I have worked with over the course of this year quoted in this well respected publication.

Enough time has passed now, though, that I feel I can weigh in. Remember that quote from Jerry Maguire, “You had me at hello”? Well, I am finding that Ms. Wayne lost me at, “portray themselves as victims of bureaucrats and consumer advocates.”

The entire paragraph reads:

These homegrown toymakers are banding together to portray themselves as victims of bureaucrats and consumer advocates, and have started letter-writing campaigns to Congress.

There is no question that many businesses are victims of this law. By saying that people are banding together to “portray” themselves as victims is really just saying to me that the author doesn’t actually believe that those businesses, that WE, are really victims. This is not a made-for-television mini-series or big box office comedy where everything is made right in the end once the nasty politician sees the err of his ways and finds true love in the very small business owner he was once trying to squash.

I recognize that journalists often have to leave a certain level of distance from their subjects, but the use of that word made me think she didn’t believe at all in what so many hoped was the point of her piece: CPSIA unnecessarily hurts small business.

So in my usual form I wanted to see if I was being oversensitive and decided to determine if, by definition, I am a victim. I therefore went straight to the source: the dictionary. And the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary verified that I was not overreacting. Not only that but it reminded me what we have all known all along. Not one single business is trying to play the role of a victim because they are, in fact, victims of this terrible law.

Shall we explain to Ms Wayne that this is more Erin Brokovich than You’ve Got Mail? Nah, maybe we should just keep reminding Congress instead.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The time is ripe for legislative change to CPSIA

Below is a list of high priority members on Commerce Trade and Consumer Protection subcommittee to lobby for legislative change to CPSIA. Please consider setting up a face to face meeting if you are a crafter or small business owner in one of these states. I spoke with Congressman Peter Welch's (VT) aide today and he stressed that our move toward legislative change will go much more quickly, if more of us set up *face to face* meetings with committee member staffers. Our efforts are really starting to take shape and this is the time to turn up the heat.

Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection

Bobby L. Rush, Illinois
Chairman Jan Schakowsky, IL
Vice Chair George Radanovich, CA
Ranking MemberJohn P. Sarbanes, MD
Cliff Stearns, FL
Betty Sutton, OH
Ed Whitfield, KY
Frank Pallone, Jr. NJ
Joseph R. Pitts, PA
Bart Gordon, TN
Mary Bono Mack, CA
Bart Stupak, MI
Lee Terry, NE
Gene Green, TX
Sue Wilkins Myrick, NC
Charles A. Gonzalez, TX
John Sullivan, OK
Anthony D. Weiner, NY
Tim Murphy, PA
Jim Matheson, UT
Phil Gingrey, GA
G. K. Butterfield, NC
Steve Scalise, LA
John Barrow, GA
Joe Barton, TX (ex officio)
Doris O. Matsui, CA
Kathy Castor, FL
Zachary T. Space, OH
Bruce L. Braley, IA
Diana DeGette, CO
John D. Dingell (ex officio)
Henry A. Waxman, CA (ex officio)

Friday, November 6, 2009

CPSC releases CPSIA guidance document with preliminary rules for component testing and product retesting

On Friday, the CPSC issued draft guidance on component testing, retesting requirements, and one-of-a-kind items which should benefit many of our members if the CPSC grants enough time for these rules to be implemented.

In a first step toward allowing component-based testing, the CPSC's preliminary guidance would allow manufacturers to utilize testing performed by their component suppliers instead of testing each component in a finished product.

Component-based testing has been a keystone of the HTA's proposals for change and we view it as crucial to the survival of hundreds of small batch manufacturers. It would allow suppliers of our raw materials to provide a manufacturer with certification of compliance within the law, which would eliminate the need for redundant and costly unit-based testing.

We are very pleased that the CPSC rules for component-based testing included not just notions and hardware like button, zippers, and hinges, but also paint and other surface coatings such as varnish and silkscreen ink.

We welcome the CPSC's decision to allow component-based testing, which is not explicitly authorized by the CPSIA legislation. However, it will take years for our component suppliers to realize the need to perform these tests as economic pressure pushes upstream in the supply chain. We have only three months until the deadline for testing and certification on 2/10/10, which is not long enough for small manufacturers to take advantage of these new rules, which will not even be voted on until after Januray 11, 2010.

We therefore reiterate our call for an additional one year stay of enforcement. The CPSC and manufacturers alike need more time to comply. And, we urge the CPSC to announce a continued stay as soon as possible instead of waiting until the last minute as was done in January 2009.

Fridays's guidance document also addressed retesting schedules and one-of-a-kind items, which are also key concerns for our members.

The CPSC has adopted the HTA's proposal to allow an exemption to annual retesting requirements for small batch manufacturers. Basically, they're allowing a flexible retesting schedule based on risk factors and relief from retesting until the number of units produced exceeds 10,000. This is very welcome relief for our members and will help ensure the continued availability of low-volume specialty and handmade children's products.

For the first time, the CPSC addressed the unique situation of one-of-a-kind items, encouraging manufacturers to utilize component-based testing and the testing of similar products to assure compliance. We welcome the CPSC's willingness to address this issue, which is of critical importance for many of our members.

Combined with previous CPSC rule making that exempted fabric, paper, and natural materials, this ruling does a lot to address the concerns of small batch manufacturers. However, we still require adjustments that only Congress can fix, including harmonization with EU standards, flexibility on lead limits for de minimus risks such as rhinestones and brass, and legislative affirmation of component-based testing.

The CPSC has clearly shown its intention to create reasonable rules when they can. However, they have also clearly indicated that there are multiple issues in which their hands are tied by the inflexible language of the law. The time is now for Congress to address these issues and fix the CPSIA.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Congressman Charles Dent of Pennsylvania endorses the HTA's requests to the CPSC

In a November 4 letter to the CPSC, Representative Charles Dent of (R-Pennsylvania) asked the Commission
to fully consider each of the recommendations submitted by the Handmade Toy Alliance, specifically the requests to extend the existing stay of testing and certification requirements for an additional year and not prosecute makers of one-of-a-kind items for failure to test their products.
The full text of his letter appears below. We thank Representative Dent for his attention to our concerns about the CPSIA and his support for another one year stay of enforcement.

Letter to CPSC from Congressman Dent -