Wednesday, May 13, 2009

My Letter to Erik Lieberman, House Small Business Subcommittee Testimony on CPSIA

This is the letter I wrote as my testimony to the House Small Business Subcommittee, which is (supposedly) meeting tomorrow to hear testimony about CPSIA. I say "supposedly" because EVERY such hearing to date has been cancelled at the request of Congressmen who wrote CPSIA originally, so I assume this one will be too. If you'd like to submit yours, details are here.


I don't know why I'm even bothering writing this to you. Congress seems determined not to hear the voices of anyone who isn't a lawyer on this issue. Me, I'm just a citizen and a small business owner. I'm not a lawyer and I don't have friends in high places, so according to Congress I have nothing important to say, even to the House Subcommittee on Small Business. Every time they hold a hearing where my voice might be heard on CPSIA, the hearing gets cancelled. This one probably will be too. So here goes nothing.

I have a business called Curious Workmanship where I make hand-crocheted baby booties. My booties were recently shown on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, but don't let that fool you; this is a tiny, tiny business. I don't have employees (though I do hire a few independent contractors from time to time) and I do every aspect of the business myself-- production, packaging, website maintenance, accounting, marketing. I even do my own taxes, brave soul that I am, just to save a few bucks. This is a shoestring operation and I run it from a rickety desk in my living room.

CPSIA has meant a lot of work for me to figure out how to bring my products into compliance on this tight of a budget. Even the less-expensive XRF testing costs money. With sales down in the recession, I had to drop to fire sale pricing in order to raise the cash to get the testing done to generate my Certificates of Compliance before February 10 and still pay my bills. Mind you, these are hand-crocheted 100% cotton baby booties. All the lead levels came back under 20ppm, so as expected, there were no hidden dangers there. Nevertheless, even though I've never done anything wrong or had any recalls or run-ins with CPSC, I still had to pay for the privilege of staying in business past Feb. 10, thanks to CPSIA. My kids ate meatless meals to pay for Congress' self-satisfaction at having protected The Children. I hope the cost was worth it.

The decision to do the Ellen Show was a tough one. The booties are shipping all over the country and will be going out well past the August 14 deadline for the third party testing requirements. My testing was done by a third party environmental engineer, but she is not a CPSC certified lab and so those test results will not count after that date. In theory my booties are covered by CPSC's stay of enforcement, being made entirely of textile. However, (a) that stay EXPIRES next February and (b) even despite the stay, some rogue State Attorney General or plaintiff's lawyer could come after me after August. (State AG probably not, but plaintiff's lawyer? my fight against CPSIA must have pissed off more than a few of them.) Either way, I'll be out of business because of the costs CPSIA compliance puts on my business. It's just a matter of whether it's six months or nine months. This Ellen Show deal should be the pinnacle of my business life, but it may be my last hurrah.

Exactly ONE job depends on my business, but it's the most important one to me. In theory I could get a job if my business has to shut down, but in practice that won't work. I started this business and quit my job because two of my four kids have Asperger's Syndrome and need more constant attention than I could provide while working outside the home. I also suffer from fibromyalgia. Sure I could get a job! If only I knew in advance which days I was going to wake up in too much pain to concentrate, or which days my boys would have trouble coping with the universe, I could just take those days off!

But I suppose the quotidian concerns of peons like me are of no interest to high and mighty members of Congress. So I'm sure this letter may be read by the intern tasked with taking out the garbage, if the wind catches the stack on top of it just right. One can only hope...

[Wacky B. Hermit]
Curious Workmanship