Category Archives: Issues

Historic Waukesha Engine Co. Jobs Go to Canada Courtesy of GE

We usually focus on the “Buy American” message, filling our posts with interesting products in hope of showing Americans that, yes, they can actually find a large number of the goods they need right in their own backyards.

Every once in a while, though, it’s good to focus on the hard realities that drive our mission. Namely, the suffering of ordinary Americans whose middle-class jobs are disappearing out from under them.

CNN has posted an eye-opening video on the relocation of a GE factory (formerly the Waukesha Engine Co.) to Canada. The sight of grown men, barely holding back tears as they face the loss of a company that has employed family members for generations, is truly sobering.  Check out the video here and please buy American-Made.

No, The Little America Backpack Isn’t Made in America

I find it really annoying when a product is marketed in such a way that it appears to be Made-in-USA when it’s not.

Screen-grab from Herschel Supply Website

The latest example I came across is made by Herschel Supply and it’s called “The Little America Backpack.” Unfortunately, it’s made in China. Not that it says that on the Company web site – I had to look up the country of origin on several vendor sites.

As I’ve said before, I wish that the labelling required by U.S. Customs applied to websites too: If the name of ANY location that is not the country of manufacture appears on the product, it must be accompanied by the words “Made in” or a comparable phrase, along with the actual country of manufacture. So, a pitch like, “Get a Splash of Miami with Florida Joe’s Aftershave,” would have to be followed immediately by “Made in Vietnam,” if that’s where it was actually manufactured. And, any mention of the Little America Backpack would have to be followed by “Made in China.”

Regards, Kathy

Snap-On Tools: What’s the Story?

A lot of people are curious about the Snap-On Tool Company after President Trump selected its Wisconsin headquarters as the  place to sign his latest executive order, which he calls, “Buy American and Hire American.

Trump at the Snap-On headquarters on April 18, 2017. One of the company’s familiar tool chests can be seen in the background.

Snap-on is an American company, but it has manufacturing facilities around the world – not just in the USA – and a recent report posted on its web site makes clear that it intends to build even more overseas facilities.

So it’s not entirely clear why this company and not one committed to full American manufacturing was chosen for the presidential event, although Reince Priebus did attend the local high school. In any case, let’s take a closer look at the firm.

The company was called the “Snap-On Wrench Company” when it was formed in 1920 and customers loved their groundbreaking ideas about interchanging wrench parts. The company made ten sockets that “snapped-on” to five interchangeable handles, an idea that changed the entire tool industry. They also made the unusual decision to sell their tools through visits to work sites and not through stores. In the 30s, they were the first in the tool industry to offer credit to customers.

The president stands outside one of the vans that visit job sites to sell the tools.

The company was no shrinking violet when it came to expanding overseas. According to the web site, “Snap-on entered the international arena in 1931.”  Today, Snap-on is worth over $3 billion and is listed on the Standard &Poors 500. It employs 6700 people at its ten American facilities. If financial industry estimates of a total workforce of close to 11,500 employees worldwide is correct, there are some 4800 foreign employees.

The Snap-On website has one of those infuriating search features that delivers zero results for “USA” even though it has product pages that clearly contain it. So, while you can’t browse American-made items, once you click on a product page, the country of origin is clearly marked.

Regards, Kathy

Oh No, NoNetz! USA Men’s Swimwear Maker Starts Chinese Production

I was sad to read that NoNetz, an American manufacturer of innovative, no-chafe men’s swimwear, has started to produce its products in China.  The news came in a disheartening article on CNN Money, entitled, “Trump is Pushing ‘Buy American’ But Customers (Mostly) Don’t Care.”

The sobering premise: after decades of buying cheap, foreign made merchandise, most Americans can’t bring themselves to shell out the extra money that comes along with the “Made in USA” label. This despite the fact that 85% of consumers say they want to buy American.

Regards, Kathy

Made-in-USA Labeling: If You See Something, Say Something

If you’re trying to buy American-made products and you notice any labeling that doesn’t look quite right, please take the time to say something to the seller. It takes vigilance on the part of consumers to keep shady businesses honest and honest businesses from making mistakes.

Disclosure: We’ll get a small commission if you buy through the links in this post. Please do!
Here’s my latest story, which involves Uncommon Goods, one of the good-guys when it comes to labeling products with country of origin. I was checking out one of their newest products, the Couch Bowl, a nifty item for those who like to eat while lounging on the sofa (guilty).  It has a thumb notch on the rim and a concave space on the bottom for your fingers.

I loved it immediately. I loved it even more when I realized it was from the same maker responsible for the brilliant, American-Made Ooma bowl, a hand-held personal chip and dip container. ‘Perfect for a post,” I thought, and started writing a story with the Headline “Couch Dining Perfected.”

Midway through it, though, I spotted something odd. Even though the Couch Bowl page said “Made in USA” and had Uncommon Goods‘ American Flag icon next to it, and even though it contained an image of New York State and specified that it was “Made in New York,” the very bottom of the text column said “Handmade in Mexico.”

I decided to get to the bottom of this. Of course it would be nice if one could just pick up the phone and call the top executive of a company, but that almost never works. I usually start at the bottom and work my way up, taking note of whether everyone has the same story.

So step one was an online chat with Tom, who quickly confessed that he did not have the answer to my question, but would look into it right away.

About an hour later I started to get impatient (my problem not Tom’s) and decided to call the company’s customer service line. The woman I spoke to, whose name I did not get, told me that the bowl was Made in Mexico but that it was marked “Made in USA” because the designer, Thomas Both, designed it in California. “But ‘designed in the USA’ is not the same as ‘Made in the USA’ I said, ‘And why does it also say “Made in New York?” Her reply: “Because it’s made exclusively for us and we’re located in New York.” I was beginning to get a headache.

I told her that I suspected she was wrong because Uncommon Goods does not usually do things that way, but in any case, it was misleading and should be changed. She agreed to bring it to the attention of the proper people.

A short time later, I got an email from Tom letting me know that the information on the product had been corrected. I checked and it was.

Only problem is, I won’t be buying the Couch Bowl now. Still, the Ooma is pretty awesome, as are the many other American-made products at Uncommon Goods.