I’ve been really focused on the notion that we – all of us – could actually make a difference if we chose to: that if successful we could actually bring some of the manufacturing jobs that have left the country back to our shores. It isn’t something I just thought of. I didn’t come up with this notion yesterday or the day before. It’s something I’ve been working on since early September, maybe even longer: something I’ve been talking with industry leaders about for some time.
But, as clear as this may sometimes seem to me, there are other times it’s felt as if something is missing. It’s felt as if I forgot something… something important… something I just couldn’t put my finger on.
I figured out what that something was this evening a few minutes after I walked through the front door, turned on the lights and laid my computer bag down on the floor in my office. I figured it out a few seconds after I turned the television on and sat down to wait for my wife so we could get dinner started.
That something was the reason these manufactured goods are so much less expensive than the majority of products manufactured here.
It came to me as I saw the bodies wrapped in white sheets lined up on the curb: one hundred and twelve witnesses to greed, avarice and exploitation.
These manufactured goods are less expensive because women and children are being paid twenty-one cents a day to work in conditions we outlawed over a hundred years ago: dangerous, overcrowded and unsafe conditions we would no longer tolerate.
It came to me through images that were seared into my brain when I read Upton Sinclair’s, “The Jungle,” for the first time; and, from the stories my Grandmother told me about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire – a fire that took so many of her friends and would have taken her had she been at work that day.
What we seem to have forgotten is that our products are more expensive because we no longer allow children to make them: we no longer allow dangerous, unsanitary or unhealthy working conditions, nor do we allow our workers to be exploited, at least not at that level. And, while I’m sure there are those among us who would love to see these regulations “relaxed,” relaxing regulations like the ones we’ve put in place to protect our workers: our wives, mothers, sisters, brothers and children, is not what civilized people do!
Certainly, bringing American manufacturing jobs home to America is something we can all aspire to: something compelling to believe in. But, there is a more powerful reason to buy American and bring American manufacturing home and that reason is morality. Allowing other people, other human beings, to be exploited – to suffer and sometimes to die, so that someone, somewhere can make a few dollars more buying cheap and selling dear or so that you or I can save a buck on a shirt or a pair of pants, a pair of tennis shoes, a motor mount or a bearing is unconscionable: it’s just plain wrong, especially because we would never allow it to happen here again.
Sure, you can make the argument that twenty-one cents a day is the difference between living and dying in Bangladesh, and more than a handful of other countries. But, I wonder if those individuals who have lost children or parents, brothers or sisters, in this tragedy and all the tragedies we never hear of would approve or agree.
There are lots of reasons to bring American manufacturing and American manufacturing jobs home and not all of them are selfish or self-serving. And, if we can’t bring these jobs home let’s at least ensure the same rules apply to everyone: rules that ensure the same kind of safeguards we fought for and insist upon for ourselves.
Let’s bring these jobs home at least until the playing field is a little more even and working conditions there are at least a little closer to the conditions we enjoy here. And, if are able to do that I’ll bet the difference in cost and quality between what we build here and what’s built just about anywhere else will shrink if not evaporate altogether… And, until that happens let’s do whatever we can to work with our suppliers and their manufacturers to support the companies and the communities that have supported us.
Let’s ask our suppliers and their manufacturers to help us lower the cost and make goods that are manufactured here a bit more competitive and let’s you and I increase their value by increasing the length of time and mileage we’re willing to guarantee them.
I hope you’ll take a moment to at least consider this idea.
Till then, stay well, take care, make money, have fun and don’t do business with anyone you don’t like… There’s probably a really good reason you don’t like ‘em and you don’t really need to find out what that reason is!