Hopefully you've become familiar with rosieMADE when we introduced them to you a bit ago. Alicia Vanderschuere, the founder of rosieMADE, offers inspired, quality made in USA gifts, that offer a unique story. The company's motto is “We sell riveting gifts that help build American dreams.” In this guest post, Alicia provides more insight to what it means to be an American crafts person and how your purchases make a difference on their lives and the American economy.
Americans have long been known for their ingenuity and craftsmanship. By comparing the earnings of an American crafts person to a Chinese factory worker, there are substantially different production methods, skills, wages, and outcomes for the profit that is generated. While both types of workers have merit and serve a purpose, we consumers need to think about our purchases and the outcome of those purchases. When we undervalue uniqueness and craftsmanship, we will get more mass produced options to choose from. We have to spend our dollars in the support of the American crafts person if we want to continue to have this choice and quality.
One of the many challenges with the current consumer mentality of buying from (read: supporting) major retailers is that we have stopped truly valuing important attributes like originality and creativity, and we have traded those in by valuing cheap prices, expensive marketing campaigns, and selecting from stack-outs or end-caps of the exact same items.
What most Americans don’t understand is the price the average worker pays for these buying habits. Average household income inequality is increasing and the poverty rate is above 15% of the US population ($46.2M people) (Source: US Census Bureau: Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2010). While average hourly wages continue to decrease, CEOs continue to earn more. “Today Fortune 500 CEOs make 204 times regular workers on average, Bloomberg found. The ratio is up from 120-to-1 in 2000, 42-to-1 in 1980 and 20-to-1 in 1950.” (Reference:Huffington Post).
The average American crafts person makes a mere $14.23 per hour (Source: BLS). Yes, this is substantially more than the Chinese factory worker who gets paid at $1.36 per hour, but the real issue with this is that all parties lose (except those profiteering from the import scenario). The American crafts person is undervalued and potentially loses sales to the cheap Chinese imports. The Chinese Worker is undervalued, and the consumer loses out by purchasing a lower quality, mass produced item, usually at a slight savings over the hand-crafted alternative.
While a crafts person is creating opportunity for themselves and their community, a Chinese factory worker is creating wealth for their CEO, a US CEO, and Wall Street. While a Chinese factory worker should have the same right to a good job and fair wages as an American, the truth of the matter is that they are performing a dangerous job (Chinese workers are 3 times more likely to die on the job than US factory workers: Source) in poor working conditions, for low pay. This does not create real opportunity, it creates subsistence living (at best). American corporations like to feel better about these conditions by thinking about the alternative: these workers might not have a job at all, so a bad job is better than no job, right?
What about another alternative: Chinese workers start making a fair wage, and American consumers start looking at the true value of a product? Since there is too much at stake for an American corporation to make the right decision, we consumers must start placing value on uniqueness and true craftsmanship. By spending our powerful consumer dollars with American craftsmen, the huge gap between the richest and the poorest here in the USA will shrink–the American crafts person could make a real living wage, while the corporate CEO could make a little less. Maybe even Chinese workers can develop and use creativity versus just being one component in a major assembly line process, which would have to be more fulfilling to them.