Garment workers, manufacturers and small-business owners gathered in front of Macy's flagship store in New York Tuesday to protest a new anti-lead law they say will cut their jobs and devastate wide-spread retail profits.

The Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act of 2008 requires that all items sold for use by children under the age of twelve, including clothing, toys and other products, must be tested for lead. Congress passed the act after the U.S. recall of millions of lead-containing toys imported from China.

But this new act does not come without major concerns. Tuesday’s protest was organized by the Coalition for Safe and Affordable Childrenswear, which represents hundreds of manufacturers and family business workers. The coalition says the new rules would cost thousands of jobs and drive companies out of business.

Coalition members said manufacturing practices have already changed to comply with the new law, but they are asking Congress to ease a provision that will retroactively force them to pull $500 million worth of possible lead-containing products from shelves.
In passing the act, Congress had asked the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to come up with specific methods on how and by whom products should be tested and certified to be lead-free. But the coalition says up until now, there have been no definitive regulations set in place to execute this.

“Until regulations are set in place on how to do the testing and certify that something is lead-free, retailers won't risk putting anything on their shelves that could contain lead, thereby halting the demand for thousands of products, and cutting manufacturing jobs in the process,” a spokesperson for the coalition said.

Steve Levy, of Star Ride Kids sportswear, said the coalition is not asking for special treatment or government bailouts. “All we are asking for is some common sense. At the exact moment when Congress is debating a $900 billion economic rescue bill, it should be looking for every opportunity to create jobs, not kill them.”

It is true that the economy is facing its worse financial crisis in history, and that every job this country can sustain is critically important. However, what is the lesser of two evils in this situation? Keeping jobs and businesses afloat, or keeping health regulations in check and making sure toxic products do not end up in the hands of our children? Although it is clear that the coalition, Congress, and the CPSC all want to arrive at a place where lead-containing products are not released into the marketplace and manufacturing jobs aren’t threatened in the process, until that time, whose side are you on?

For more information on the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act of 2008, visit the CPSC. To learn more about the Act's predecessor, the Consumer Product Reform Act of 2007, click here, or visit LawInfo's free legal resource center for more CPSC legal news.