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Devaluing the American Crafts Person

Devaluing the American Crafts Person

Devaluing the American Crafts person 5-20-13

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.


A USA manufacturing advocate, an idealist, a champion for women, a believer in good, a corporate survivor, a spreadsheet and organizational junkie, a healthy living proponent, a wife, a mother, and an entrepreneur. She took her 15 years of retail and corporate merchandising experience, coupled her passion for the American dream and hard-working women, mixed in an inspiring figure (Rosie the Riveter of course), and created rosieMADE LLC. Find on .

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