July 25, 2008

Made in America

author_sally By Sally Raskoff

Do you think about where your clothes, cars, and other consumer goods are made or where their parts come from? As we hear about jobs moving “offshore” to other countries and imported products that are toxic or are made by children, some Americans have urged consumers to “buy American.” clip_image002

Buying American-made products sounds patriotic and supportive of the country, but is it as easy to do as it sounds? 

To investigate, I googled “made in America” and “made in USA” and was surprised that not as many sites appeared as I expected. Besides a link to IMDB for the movie Made in America (about a young African American woman who was surprised to find Ted Danson as the sperm donor her mother had “employed”), there were far fewer sites than I had anticipated. 

Most sites claimed to provide a database of American-made products. One site, madeinusa.org was clearly just that, although it included a series of posts from people who had updates on products and retail outlets that buy American products. Another site, usstuff.com, was less a database and more a collection of links and lists. The third was much more graphically sophisticated and very pro-American, asking browsers to register as “patriots” so they could claim that a large number of people are seeking American-made products.

wwwUAWorgCars2008While this pursuit was entertaining, these sites were clearly commercial outlets serving as a directory for various companies or products. To narrow my focus, I decided to search for American-made cars to see what I could find. 

Most of us could name the national identity of many automobile companies, including the U.S. companies of Chevrolet, Ford, and Chrysler, the Japanese companies of Honda, Toyota, and Mitsubishi, and the German companies BMW and Mercedes.

But in reality it’s almost impossible to identify which cars are really American made. It depends in part on whether one defines American made as pertaining to labor or parts. 

The United Auto Workers union provides support for those in the automotive trades and their website details exactly where cars are made and how to prioritize American-made cars. In fact, they have links on their website to find out the origins of many products. 

On their list of cars, they include those made by union workers in the U.S. and Canada. 

The makes of these cars include Chevrolet, Ford, Chrysler, Dodge, Cadillac, Lincoln, Saturn, Buick, GMC, Jeep, Mercury, Hummer, Saab, Isuzu, Mazda, Mitsubishi and Toyota. They have asterisks marking those that are “sourced from the U.S. and another country” with instructions on how to check the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to see if it’s U.S.-made or Canadian-made. Check the find print on their list (below) as it explains how each model of car may be made in different locations thus workers may or may not be union. FTC_ConsumerAlert_Oct2001 

So, the UAW information is useful if we want to ensure we use American (or Canadian) unionized workers but it doesn’t help if we want to seek parts or products that are domestic in origin.

The Federal Trade Commission website lists its 1997 policy, reiterating that products labeled with “Made in USA” must have been “all or virtually all” made in the USA. In October 2001, events prompted a consumer alert [INSERT BELOW] about the labeling policy and how to report violations.

By contrast, the madeinusa.org site has a different definition: “Made in the USA” means that a product has “51% or more of domestically produced or manufactured parts, labor and or value-added content or any combination thereof.” As you can see, we have different ways of defining what it means for a product to be “American.”

NewBalance_MadeinUSA2006 Athletic shoe manufacturer New Balance got into some trouble with the FTC for making false claims about their products being made in America in 1996. That case was closed with an agreement to make appropriate attribution of sourcing and exporting data. New Balance now using of the 70% level to claim “made in the USA”. (The www.madeinusa.com site lists New Balance as using 85% American content).

One thing is clear about “Buying American”: it’s all very ambiguous!

The impulse to Buy American is a patriotic and emotional response to our struggling economy and to our declining international power. Actually trying to Buy American is rather impossible unless one forgoes nationally marketed consumer products and instead buys only locally raised food and other products such as wool and wood to make one’s own clothing, housing, and furnishings.

Sociologically, we can see that our country is embedded in a global world with many important relationships clip_image003outside our borders. We depend on those relationships for our basic needs such as shoes and transportation. Thinking that we can close our borders or not make use of products from other countries is not realistic.

Sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein uses and expands on Marx's ideas about societal change to suggest that we are in the midst of a crucial period of late capitalism struggling with its contradictions. This economic form has had us working our way across the globe in the search for exploitable labor and other resources. Now that those supplies are close to exhausted and the environmental damage may be out of our hands, we can either continue with the same system or change things to a new economic form in the attempt to save our environment, our country, and ourselves. 

If we are successful in creating this new system, it will, of course, create its own contradictions or problems. However, if we don’t deal effectively with the challenges of our time, we will continue to experience the same but more intense versions of these challenges.

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Comments

In the summer of 2007, I saw the trend of recalled imported products and conducted much the same kind of research that you outlined in your blog. Knowing full well consumers did not have a place to go to find particular items made in USA, I set out to create a different kind of resource website. The Madebyyankees.net website provides the resource consumers need. No consumer products are sold on our site. The database is only about 2000 items but I hope to have 5000 by the end of 2008. Also, if the item you are looking for isn't in the database, you simply email and we will do the research for you. MadeByYankees IS your resource to support our workforce. Please review the website and feel free to give feedback!

You might try www.MadeinUSAForever.com, which has hundreds of products made here in the USA.

Some companies would like to say that they are american made. The catch is that some of the parts of these products are made in the US yet not all. Just as you said about New Balance. One clothing company they I am a very freqent shopper at is the store American Appearl. They are completely american made. I love it.

We began operating over 25 years ago and we are organized under UAW Local 174. Our goal is to provide the finest American and Union Made Clothing. We carry brands such as Carhartt (American/Union made only), King Louie America, Union Line, AKWA/Sun Moda (American made only), Wigwam, Cactus Fashions and others. From those companies we carry Jeans, T-Shirts, Shirts, Polo Shirts, Coats, Jackets and socks. We are proud to also carry an extensive selection of Ladies American Union made clothing. We not only want to support the American Worker but also anyone who wants to wear clothing made in the US.

In addition, we are a Union Embroidery, Embossing, Screen Printing and Heat Pressing facility. We can replicate and/or produce any design logo to satisfy your needs. Our facility is set up to handle projects from single to tens of thousands of piece orders.

While you are looking at our great merchandise, feel free to use the coupon code USA to receive 10% on your purchase. You can use the link http://allusaclothing.com/index.aspx?dc=USA to receive your discount.

The All American Clothing Co is another great source for USA Made Clothing, you can check them out at http://www.allamericanclothing.com

They carry some big name brands and even manufacture their own line of jeans. The materials and labor are all sourced right here in the USA...check them out!

I've been trying to buy American made products for the last several years after realizing that nearly NOTHING that I owned was made in my own country, and in fact most of it was made in China.

It's very difficult to FIND American made products, and it frustrates me to no end. I've created a directory of stores selling products made in the USA online. It makes me feel like I am at least doing SOMETHING about this predicament, and I hope in doing so it will help others find all the really cool stuff that's made right here in the USA.

There are LOTS of stores here and it's growing daily! If you have or know of an online store selling US made products, leave a link and I will add it at no cost. Please check it out!:)
http://theamericanmade.com

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