And I hope you'll join me.
This afternoon I had the opportunity to meet with my state representative, Congressman Dan Lungren, to discuss how the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) is going to impact my business. I was the last constituent to arrive for our 3:30 p.m. meeting, and the only Etsian in the group. The others owned and operated online shops that sold lovely children's items - some handmade and others made by small companies.
We spent the first part of the meeting explaining to Congressman Lungren how this ridiculous law is going destroy our businesses. Most small and micro businesses cannot afford to spend hundreds of dollars per item on third-party testing, not to mention how much it will cost to fund permanent labeling on small batches and one-of-a-kind (OOAK) items.
Then we started talking about what can be done about it. The law was not intended, of course, to destroy American small businesses and the handmade movement, and Congressman Lungren was clearly dismayed by how we are being affected by the CPSIA. I'm sure our little group would have loved for him to say, "Don't worry folks. I'll take care of everything. I'll talk to my friends in Congress and we'll get this sorted out right away." Unfortunately, being part of the minority (he's Republican), he doesn't exactly have a lot of sway with the major players involved with this law.
So what can we do? Obviously, the law has been written and signed into law. But Congress still has the power to change it, remove it or replace it with a new law. All it's going to take is a little (okay, a lot) of pressure from the good folks who keep them in office. Yeah, yeah, we've been doing that already, right?
Here's where we learn something new:
- Start now. The Republicans in Congress will be taking their annual retreat next week. This means that many of the Democrats will be returning to their home states, taking the opportunity to hold town hall meetings and meeting with their constituents during office hours. This is the perfect week to call your Congressperson's local office and try to arrange a meeting. Who knows, maybe he/she will actually be in town and have time to meet with you!
- Get on the phone. Forget emails and letters folks. Phone calls are the way to go. When you send an email or a letter to your local congressperson's office it goes straight into a database in their D.C. office. What comes next? Well, as many frustrated Etsians will tell you: a form letter arrives in your mailbox or inbox. A phone call, though, means that you talk to a real person. You get to share your story, ask them to work for real changes, tell them how this ridiculous law is going to affect the lives of their constituents and cripple an already ailing economy. The more people who call, the more pressure we put on Congress to make changes.
- Contact the national media. Lungren also urged us to go to the national media - forget the local news, it's small potatoes at this point. Each of us has a story that would make incredible headlines: "Congress forces closure of countless small businesses" or "Women- and minority-owned businesses close up shop due to Congressional blunder" or "Senior citizens forced into poverty by hastily written law". You get the idea. Once again, though, forget about letters, emails and press releases. Those take too long and are too easily ignored. Pick up the phone and dial CNN or FoxNews or The New York Times. Maybe if enough of us call and make a lot of noise, we'll be heard.
- Focus on the big fish. We need to put pressure on the guys in Congress who matter. Right now, that's folks like Reps. Henry Waxman and Bobby Rush. Rep. Waxman is the Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce - he has the power to call a hearing on concerns regarding the impact of the CPSIA. Rep. Rush, of course, is the man who sponsored the bill. We need to flood their offices with phone calls, asking them to work for reasonable changes to the law. And if you happen to live in their districts or know someone who does, we need your support! They're much more likely to listen if it's a constituent calling.
I hope I've inspired you to take action. Later this weekend, I'll try to post some phone numbers of organizations and folks you can contact. In the meantime, get your phone ready for a workout on Monday. This is too important to ignore!