CPISA: How to Advocate for Toy Makers

Friday, December 26, 2008 9:30
Posted by Kelly Rand in category Business of Craft

Save Handmade Banner The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) has been kicking up a lot of dust in the indie craft community. For those who are not familiar with this piece of legislation: the CPSIA bans harmful chemicals, such as phalates and lead in children’s toys. It also requires third party testing and certification of toys sold in the U.S.

Many small business owners, Etsy shop owners amongst those in the community, are worried that the requirements for compliance are too onerous and will ultimately put them out of business. The Handmade Toy Alliance has a good run down of the issue and how to get involved.

Julie Finn, over at Crafting a Green World has a great letter that she wrote to her Senators and Representative, outlining her concerns with the legislation. Cecilia Leibovitz, also wrote her Senator and posted his response at Little Ida. She continues to post news related to the happenings on the legislation and in the community. Many crafters are encouraging other crafters to sign the petition at the Handmade Toy Alliance, join the facebook group, or contact your Senators and Representative.

So what should you do? Anything to voice your concern is appropriate, but if you decide to contact your Senators and Representative here are some tips:

Choose how you would like to contact them: Whether snail mail, phone call, or email, the point is to make contact. A little known fact about constituent contact, is that it rarely happens. More than likely your contact will make a big difference and can be the deciding point between changing legislation or not.

Email: Email is the easiest way to contact your elected officials.  Some elected officials have their own email addresses or they have forms that you fill out on their websites. Many places often have form letters that you can click and send. If you use a form email letter, be sure to tailor the letter to reflect your situation. If you choose email, note that many offices are overwhelmed by email and it can take a long time for them to get back to you regarding your issue.

Snail Mail: The Handmade Alliance has a sample letter you can use for this type of contact and you can use the following links to find the addresses for your Senators and Representative. Again, tailor the letter to fit your situation. Talk about how this issue effects you. Your elected officials want to know how legislation will effect their constituents. If you send your letter to their Washington, D.C. address the mail will be delayed by up to two weeks as all mail directed to these offices are irradiated. For a faster response, address your letters to a district office address.

Phone Call: Currently Congress is not in session and the best bet to get someone on the phone is to call a district office. The new Congress will begin on January 3, 2009 and convene on the 6th, 2009. You can look up both district office information and Washington, D.C. office information from the above links. When you call, ask for the staffer that works on consumer product issues. Make sure you write down their name for future reference. More than likely you will get a voice mail. Make your message short, keep it under 3-5 minutes. Give 2-3 points and give a clear message of what you would like your Senators or Representatives to do. Ask that you be keep up to date on what your elected official decides to do on the issue.

So now that you’ve made contact, give yourself a high five and three gold stars! Now the waiting begins. You should receive a letter that, at the very minimum, acknowledges your request.

If you are satisfied with the response you have received from your Senators or Representative, that is really good! Follow up by sending a thank you letter that reiterates your concerns. If you are unsatisfied with the response you have received, don’t be discouraged. You should follow up by asking for clarification on their decision, or volunteer to give more information if it is needed. The point is to not give up and to keep pushing to get the result you want.

Also, one last thing, Congress is in transition. As stated above the new Congress will start on January 3rd. This means that your elected officials might be changing. You might want to start contacting your newly elected officials now, so they know your concerns going into the new year, and know who you are. You can usually find their contact information through their campaign websites.

Photo: Kelly Rand

About Kelly Rand

Kelly Rand is the author of Handmade to Sell: Hello Craft’s Guide to Owning, Running, and Growing Your Crafty Biz and co-founder and Executive Director of Hello Craft, a nonprofit trade association dedicated to the advancement of independent crafters and the handmade movement. Kelly believes that handmade will save the world.

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