What’s wrong with American workers?

Deciding to buy a new toaster has proven to be an exercise in frustration and principles.

We first debated whether we really NEEDED the new toaster, in light of our efforts to make do with what we have and not succumb to the consumerism philosophy that says more is better and newer is best. However, breakfast without grrrr! isn’t an unreasonable expectation. A toaster that browns evenly without flipping the bread around for a second cycle, and doesn’t require special finesse to stay down when pushed down shouldn’t be considered an outlandish luxury.

So, off we went, fully prepared to return home with a new appliance. There were lots of toasters to choose from, and we were having a pretty good time deciding–until we looked at the fine print: Made in China.

Oh come on, we said to each other. There must be a toaster available that was made by American workers in an American city. We checked another brand. We checked all the brands. Nope. Not a single one was made in this country.

That day, we came home without a new toaster.

A few weeks later, we remembered a gift certificate we’d received to a local store we seldom visit. Armed with renewed optimism, we set out on a toaster hunt once again. This time, our hopes were dashed even before we checked the fine print; they plummeted as soon as we saw all the same old brands, outsourced to the same foreign countries.

At that point, we randomly checked the rest of the kitchen gadgets hanging on the wall. Not a single one was made in the United States. I looked at my husband and said, in disgust, “And they wonder what’s wrong with the American economy?” People are looking for work, and yet huge numbers of manufacturing jobs are being given to people in other countries. That’s just plain wrong.

While I agree that the world is getting smaller and we can’t live as if those countries don’t exist, I think it’s nearly criminal that businesses are allowed to shut down plants here, putting perfectly good workers out of jobs, and ship the work to places where they can make it cheap–and still sell it for high prices here. Believe me, I saw some expensive made-in-China toasters. The free trade agreement might have been good for China or any of those other countries hosting American-owned companies, and it obviously was good for companies who want to use the cheap labor in poor countries, but it certainly didn’t do United States workers any good.

At that point in our toaster search, George and I decided to do more than pay lip service to the “buy American” slogan. We decided that on any shopping trip we will come home only with American-made items. That’s also when we discovered, to our horror, that buying American is getting harder and harder to do. We had to ask ourselves: are we willing not to buy at all, if we can’t find a brand that was made here in our own country? Even the Mac I’m typing on wasn’t made in this country. There may be times when we’ll have to compromise. But there ARE ways to help keep those compromises to a minimum.

One of them is a site called American Made Yes, at http://americanmadeyes.com/home.html. They have a directory of over 500 researched links to American-made products, including furniture, toys, jeans, men’s and women’s clothing, dog food, dish washers, vacuum cleaners and more. We’re going to check that site before we shop for anything from now on, and we’re going to let companies we DON’T buy from, know about it, and know why.

Unfortunately, there are no American Made Yes toasters at that site. So, I’m proud to say, we’re still using our old one. And who says bread MUST be toasted, anyway?

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About Monica Sawyn

I'm a retired newspaper reporter/columnist, and although I still freelance, I miss the weekly column I used to write. I still "see columns" in everyday life and need a place to put them after they're written--thus, this blog. I'm Catholic, have been a Benedictine oblate since 1977, and live with my husband and our beagle in Sturgeon Bay, Wis. When I'm not writing, I'm probably reading, sewing, taking photos or walking the dog.
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4 Responses to What’s wrong with American workers?

  1. Denise says:

    People have been saying exactly that for a quite some time now. There have been many others who have tried the “I’m just going to buy American” and found it much too difficult since so much of what we buy is made in other countries. We, as Americans, should never have allowed things to get so out of hand. So many Americans out of work, losing their homes, children that go to bed hungry……but we continue to send money to other countries to help them out of THEIR problems! This is not what “we the people” want, but who’s listening???

    • Monica Sawyn says:

      You’re so right, Denise. But maybe things are turning around. I just read an article about a toothpick factory moving back to Cloquet, Minn., from overseas, because Chinese wages are climbing and so are shipping costs. They’re not coming back out of any special concern for the American worker, but at least they’re coming back–and maybe others are, too. We can only hope.

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