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Doesn't MJSA support American jewelry manufacturing?


#1

Hello Fellow Orchidians;

I have owned and operated my own business for over 10 years now, and
for nearly as long, I’ve been a proud member of MJSA, the
Manufacturing Jewelers and Suppliers of America.

I know political discourse is not encouraged on this forum, but I
believe the issue is very germane to my fellow owner/operators in
the trade, so I hope this post will have value to us here on Orchid.

I have finally felt the weight of the last straw. I will not renew
my membership in MJSA. Furthermore, I will no longer recommend that
my fellow business owners subscribe. I will miss the MJSA Journal,
and I regret my need to follow my core values must be at the expense
of an organization which I know has provided considerable benefit to
Ganoksin. So I will, when it comes time to renew my membership,
donate the money to Ganoksin.

Let me explain the basis of my decision.

I have often disagreed with the policies of MJSA regarding issues
like “the Death Tax” (which I don’t believe will affect more than a
very few manufacturing jewelers, and only serves the interest of a
very few wealthy families, who certainly can bear its weight). And I
have expressed my position with regards to their support of certain
trade policies. But the latest letter in the MJSA journal by their
President demonstrates, in my opinion, MJSA’s blind support of, and
their lobbying efforts for, policies which have devastated the
American jewelry manufacturing industry. What is worse, in the letter
itself, the rationale and justification for these policies comes
across as nothing less than a slap in the face to our industry. We
are being told that if we can’t compete with unfair foreign trade, we
should simply quit and get out of the way. The President of MJSA
draws on the example of a jewelry manufacturer who’s business is now
only 20% devoted to jewelry manufacture and the rest of it’s work is
metal fabrication. What a membership enticement that is! If you can’t
compete, do something else … of course, you can still be a dues
paying member if you like.

The President of MJSA decries “we refuse to be protectionists!” But
it is not just America that is being hurt. As long as we are
complicit in trade with countries that allow child labor, cruel
working conditions, sub-human wages, environmental devastation, and
all manner of human misery, we are guilty of the same crimes. The
supposed “rising tide” hasn’t lifted all boats: it has drowned the
American economy in trade deficits and marooned the populations of
other countries in hopeless serfdom and violence. Insisting on fair
trade is not an unfair trade policy. You can frame it by calling it
protectionist. Fine. But if that’s what it is, it is not the industry
we are protecting, as if from fair competition by foreign companies
and workers. It is workers AND businessmen-and-women here AND abroad
that we wish to protect from profiteers who insist on unequal tariff
advantages, lax environmental regulations and slave labor as the
basis of their profits. Instead of calling it “protectionist” I chose
to call it Patriotic and Compassionate. Why doesn’t MJSA support
American jewelry manufacturing, as their name implies? Perhaps the
membership of their board might explain. Meanwhile, I’m using another
solution put forth by “conservative” economic modelers. I’m voting
with my feet.

David L. Huffman


#2

David

A “lone voice in the dark”, hopefully not for long! I too, saw the
’light of day’ some two or three years ago from the out-sourcing of
manufactured goods being dropped at our Canadian and American shores.
Because of this, I have seen companies going “Chapter 11” up here in
Toronto. How can ‘we’ compete with $ 30.00 a month labour fees?

No one listened to me then, I asked my American web-forum buddies to
"wake-up and smell the roses", all to no avail. In fact, I was
booted off one web-forum for my “too early observations”. Now the
damage is done, its now “damage control”.

If a major representing institution does not protect its members,
then what is the solution? To give you all and David a good story…I
was visiting a jewellery trade show in our city 2 years ago and
glanced at a Toronto company selling Canadian Diamonds, guess where
their set merchandise was manufactured? In some offshore country in
the very far East. So where is our, or your “protectionism” and our
own method of curtailing these sources of goods into our country?

A month ago our Canadian government slapped a 40% tax on ANY piece
of merchandise; automobiles, appliances or whatever before it arrives
on our shores, big deal. The damage is done, jobs lost, companies
gone like the “T-Rex”!

I like the MJSA per se, but some folks are blinded to what really is
going on at the bench level in regards to jobs being lost. Not only
"lost" but the labour conditions in those countries. This applies to
wearing apparel, automobiles, computers.

David in closing, I totally agree with you on your posting of your
message. Maybe collectively, maybe ‘we’ can shake up the business
tree a tad. All of this is affecting our trade and businesses.

Gerry Lewy!!


#3

David,

You stated your opinion quite eloquently, and I don’t know that
anyone could have said it better.

There are a number of issues facing the American economy in relation
to the jewelry industry. I was shocked to hear the forecast for
availability of VS diamonds in America given China and India’s middle
income growth in a recent GIA podcast (it’s a depressing forecast).
Add to that equation De Beers has an estimated 70% control over the
diamond market (including what’s available), I think we here in
America need to be more concerned about our jewelry industry.

I’m really not sure how many people, both jewelers and consumers,
really pay attention to things like this. Right now I think the
demand for jewelry is at its highest, yet the meaning and value of
jewelry is being degraded by current social fads and demand for
excess, such as referring to it as “bling bling”, or wearing it in
grillz. I’m sure some will disagree with me, that I’m making too much
of these social observations. And, it could all be Chicken Little
squawkings. I hope so.

The question is, as a whole, what can jewelers do to change business
practices here in America, and how can we safeguard the future of
our industry? You have taken the first step. Personally, I’m not a
fine jeweler (yet), and can’t even afford an MJSA membership, so my
impact is zilch. All I can do at this point is read and observe and
hope.

You have my full support. I hope others follow suit.

Miachelle


#4

Hello All

As you may have gathered, I am very peripheral to the jewelry
"business". To the extent I am involved it has always been either a
hobby or very small business indeed. So I’m not personally very
involved with the issues you raised Re: MJSA editorial or, really,
political policies.

But as a human being and world citizen I want to say that I agree
with David Huffman 100%. There’s no profit to be had in competing
with sweatshops and slave labour. There’s no good to come out of
buying anything from such outfits either. I get sick when i hear the
proponents of “free markets” or “competition” or "globalization"
spouting their line of BS. They are always on the wrong side of
everything that has to do with freedom. (Ask 'em what they think
about the freedom of workers to organize for a living wage or
liveable working conditions) Their idea of competition is price-
fixing. They love globalization because it puts their sleazy labour
practices and environmental pollution far away - out of sight and out
of mind of folks who wouldn’t be able to look at themselves in the
mirror or hold their heads up if they had to face the true cost of
their luxuries, and their necessities as well.

I think Huffman’s post was great and to the point. All any
manufacturers’ organization wants to do, in any business, is drive
down the cost of labour and evade taxes because they claim to be
"giving" jobs to people. They never gave anyone a job - It is a
trade, not a gift - and usually not a fair trade if they can possibly
arrange it that way.

Marty Hykin - in Victoria where I went to the lumberyard and hardware
stores today looking for some proper hinges for the beautiful French
door i just built for my wife’s painting studio.

No luck. You can’t find a galvanized, non-removeable, brass-pinned
hinge for love or money - what used to be the everyday, basic
standard for an outside door. Not here in Victoria today anyway. I
can say with some sense of confidence that I understand what people
think about the future. I know that deep down in their hearts most
people must believe the world is coming to an end pretty soon when I
can go to the hardware store and find people selling and even buying
stuff that they KNOW won’t last until their kids grow up. Maybe some
of them don’t know. I’d tell them but they probably wouldn’t thank
me. They’d probably think I’m a nosy old grouch.

While at the lumberyard I saw a “builder” putting a brand new
off-the- shelf French door into the back of his pickup truck today, a
door that I hope nobody ever slams hard. And I hope he never breaks
one pane of the glass in that door because there is no way to remove
and replace a pane without destroying the door - which will probably
self- destruct on its own pretty soon anyway. His door, designated,
like mine, a “French door” with all that bespeaks, is probably
destined to be installed in a “luxury” dwelling.

Not many people know that the Latin root of the word "luxury"
actually translates into the English word “lechery.”


#5

Hello David

The President of MJSA decries "we refuse to be protectionists!" But
it is not just America that is being hurt. As long as we are
complicit in trade with countries that allow child labor, cruel
working conditions, sub-human wages, environmental devastation, and
all manner of human misery, we are guilty of the same crimes 

I think that the above statement is reactionary and makes many
assumptions and generalizations - “All foreign factories are X”.
However, I feel your pain, and the factual part of what you say is
largely indusputable. I want you, and all, to understand that I’m
not disagreeing with you at all. But what is the solution? The above
is the problem, but what’s the solution, if there is one? I really
wonder, in this age of Global Economy, if there is a solution, and
maybe the MJSA is just being realistic. It’s easy (happens every day
here in land of Fruits and Nuts) to say, Taxes, Tariffs, Import
restrictions, but all of those things carry repercussions and impact
other sectors and other people. “Whenever we pull something out of
the Universe to study it, we find out it’s tied to everything else in
the universe.” Again, I’m on your side - it’s my side, too. But
what’s the solution?

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#6

David,

I have to say that I agree your take on this and I have already
stayed away from MJSA for some time now. I try as much as possible
to purchase equipment and supplies that come from fair trading
countries (using my own experience to identify fair trade, not the
state departments definition).

Daniel Culver


#7

David,

I read with dismay the same MJSA announcement. I, too, am voting
with my feet…and my wallet. I’m done with them. This is simply a
slap in the face for entrepreneurship. I’m done, and, frankly, won’t
miss them. And I will make my opinion known in Tucson next week.

Wayne Emery


#8

Isn’t this why guilds were formed way back in the day, and people
kept things secret (such as how to cut a diamond)? One way that was
used to control things is to keep control of the equipment used to
produce things, but that method is gone forever. I’m not sure what
methods are left other than lobbying the governments.

Craig


#9

David,

Perhaps the membership of their board might explain. Meanwhile, I'm
using another solution put forth by "conservative" economic
modelers. I'm voting with my feet.

Perhaps some of the members of the board and some of the members of
MJSA manufacture overseas and derive benefit from having their
jewelry produced for less overseas and sold here.

You know there are designers who have their whole line manufactured
overseas. There was an article recently about designers who started
out by being supported by small independent jewelers, and now sell
on HSN or QVC and big box retailers, and are being dropped by the
people who supported them initially as the independent jeweler cannot
compete. The way the small independent competes is by having
something unique and different. I had a customer the other day who
was John Hardy this and Judith Ripka that. She says why should she
buy at he department store when she could get it for half from QVC.
There is that old saying, “Don’t S–t where you eat.” There was a
guy on Charlie Rose the other night, former Treasury Secretary under
Clinton, he said in every area of finance the U.S. is doing the
opposite of what needs to be done to have a healthy economy.

Our trade deficit is obscene. Foreclosure rate on homes is now 5%.
One in 20 homes. My question is, can we really be objective about how
what we do will affect not only ourselves, but others, and do we
really care? Judging by actions, I believe we only care when
something important gets taken away. Consequences have to be serious
enough to impact, and the impact has to be enough to cause change of
consciousness for long term good instead of short term gain.

Richard Hart


#10

David,

I agree - 100%

What is more, I also believe that neither AGTA, JA or any of these
organizors care about helping us promoite jewelry made in America,
but also promoting excellence in the jewelry itself - i.e. The Saul
Bell and Spectrum Awards.

Like you, I am a long time member of all, but I am at the end of my
rope and will no longer support them if they will not support us.

Archie


#11
Add to that equation De Beers has an estimated 70% control over
the diamond market 

It just ain’t so anymore. They now control less than 60% of the
market. If they controlled 70% they wouldn’t be allowed to operate in
the US, but they most assuredly are.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
1780 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140
www.spirerjewelers.com


#12

Hello Orchidians;

I would like to expand on my post about MJSA for clarification. My
hope is to help keep the thread on topic. And yes, I do have an
agenda, and I hope MJSA is listening. This is long, and it’s probably
not going to interest a lot of Orchid’s readers, so if others want to
argue conservative world views vs. socialism, or whatever, go ahead,
but remember, Orchid is about jewelry, not politics. This is
political, but it’s about what jewelry in America is to become and no
less.

MJSA was established to support the interests of American jewelry
manufacturers. That industry is in serious decline, having moved
their operations overseas, or gone under. And MJSA continues to
lobby in a way that will worsen conditions. Here’s why: they have
(and this is said in the article I referred to), settled on
compromise and they see this as a well reasoned decision. They
consider it as something between fair trade and free trade, as if
this, in itself, was reasonable. This is like the hope that Communist
China will eventaully accept democracy and capitalism (which are not
the same thing) if we do business with them long enough, Tianamen
Square aside. And what MJSA accepted in this compromise was so
colored by their faith in the “free market” that they chose to
believe in a toothless agreement; the Indian trade association’s
"promise" to lobby their government for an eventual examination of
the existing tariff imbalance. They tied their own hands by a
superstitious aversion to “protectionism”. And, while acknowledging a
problem, put off addressing it until some unspecified future time, at
which time some unspecified and hopeful solution would be merely
considered, with no guarantee of results…we are to just hope that
some day, the other guy, who now enjoys a distinct advantage, will
someday decide to be more fair, at his own expense. And to convince
themselves of the wisdom of this decision, they re-iterated their
belief in the justice of economic Darwinism by suggesting that
American jewelry manufacturers simply weren’t accepting the reality
of “globalization” and acting appropriately, whatever that should be.
Some decided that would be to leave, some decided that would be give
up. And the only bright idea MJSA has suggested other than those is,
do something else, like make widgets, or something…

What should they have done? First, closed the barn door before the
horse ran off, but in any case, considered what kind of leverage they
actually had and sought a solution that represented the interests of
their membership. And this latest case is symptomatic of the problem.
That problem being, it is more important to appear to be the right
kind of person (or organization) than to do the job you claim to be
qualified for. It is more important to have the right system of
belief about business and the economy than it is to look at the
facts. What facts? This is not fair trade if it’s not fair (duh!),
and free trade isn’t free, it’s only called that. Somebody is paying
the price, here and abroad. Somebody is reaping the rewards, and it’s
not going to be MJSA’s members, or the people of India, the world’s
second oldest democracy. All the membership benifits, perks, events,
won’t be enough to sustain the American jewelry industry, MJSA’s
base.

MJSA, because of an ideology (which I won’t debate here), would not
acknowledge the threat of unfair foreign competition while it
devastated the American jewelry industry, as if this threat were a
natural condition of business and not the breakdown of a century and
a half of carefully crafted policy designed to sustain the American
economy. And India will never get to enjoy the equivalent of an
American middle class in it’s heyday. We will strengthen the class
divide in both our countries. And if you don’t believe it, just look
at what NAFTA did for Mexico. This stuff just doesn’t work.

If MJSA choses to see their new role as also a lobbying organization,
which apparently it does, then what constituency is it serving? Is it
still the manufacturers, or is it the prevalent economic model? If
the latter, then it is serving the interests of a network of the
investor class, such as I doubt will seek membership. So, if MJSA
doesn’t oversee the interests of manufacturers, who will succumb to
overseas competition, isn’t it rendering itself irrelevant?

They argue that American manufacturers aren’t competitive. But this
is a race to the bottom, cutting costs, until business runs head
long into the brick wall of the competitive advantage it can’t have:
nearly free labor (which we abolished in the U.S. in the 1860’s),
foreign government subsidy (which GATT won’t allow here), and no
environmental regulation (which we in the U.S. have approached, but
will finally and thankfully avoid). My point is clear: we can’t
compete with that even if we want to. I admire MJSA’s faith in
American business, and it is not misplaced, but the wolf at the door
is now the wolf in the larder, and they don’t seem to mind being on
the menu themselves. If they think they can sustain themselves on a
handful of Guild memberships like mine, there are two problems.
First, it will be a long while before there are enough of us,
second, we, as a whole, are a lot greener than our predecessors, the
big jewelry manufacturers of old. They have their advertisers, but
who will see their ads in the MJSA journal and buy their products?

I don’t need to lecture people on the history of U.S. business, or
the merits of capitalism verses socialism, or the myriad economic
models that have found favor or disrepute over the life of the
American story. I am staying to the point, which is this: MJSA claims
to be a democratically representative organization. I am a member,
and I am intent on their hearing my voice, albeit as I leave them.
Orchid, so far, has listened, while MJSA has not. So I ask them here,
“Who’s side are you on?”. That’s not a rhetorical question. There
must be something I don’t know here. Mabye if I’d gone to some of
those golf tournaments of yours. So I can’t, for the life of me,
figure out who or what you are going to exist for. So, let us in on
it, for old times sake, eh? You throw us perks, while you sell us
out. So who bought?

David L. Huffman


#13
proponents of "free markets" or "competition" or "globalization"
spouting their line of BS. They are always on the wrong side of
everything that has to do with freedom. (Ask 'em what they think 

I’m not sure if the above is directed towards me or not. It doesn’t
really matter. I wrote yesterday about a global marketplace, but that
doesn’t make me, not am I, a “proponent”. And I ask the same question
of the above, too. That’s the problem, what’s the solution? I also
agree with David 100%. But there ain’t no such animal as a “Global
Marketplace”. There’s nothing to sign up for, nothing to support or
reject, nothing really to legislate. If I, as a US citizen, want to
fly to Hong Kong (and don’t forget Belgium) and cut a deal with a
jewelry manufacturer, there’s nothing in this world to stop me (I
won’t, though). No, Global Marketplace is a description of the world
as it is. Saying you don’t support it is saying you don’t support the
sun coming up in the morning. The sun does not care, it just comes
up. The first thing I became aware of that was hit by these issues
was the US steel market way back when. What has happened with that
(to my knowledge - I don’t know so much about it) is that the
marketplace adjusted, steel buyers came to realize that cheap steel
is just that, and the US industry came back from the dead - not to
previous levels, though. I do have a solution: Adapt. Wake up.
Whatever that takes. Those who don’t roll with the punches get
creamed. We’re not going back to life without cell phones, or PC’s,
or Gore-tex. Make something that isn’t affected by overseas
production. Make something they will want to buy from you - there’s
a concept. Elect a real president. And realize that as the economies
of those countries grow from the overseas business, THEIR workforce
demands more, and wages rise there, too (fact). I’m not trying to
cause a debate, here. I do agree with David - there’s nothing to
disagree about, what he states are facts. Make no mistake about it,
I’m no less disturbed about the effects on the US economy than
anyone else. The only issue, in my mind, is what, if anything, is to
be done about it. Question: If Hong Kong has 350 state of the art
jewelry shops (What sweatshops? try

http://www.jewelry.org.hk/frontground/defaulte.asp

and we don’t, who’s fault is that? I just don’t believe we can put
the genie back in the bottle. Or get anywhere hiding our heads in the
sand.

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#14

David:

I, like you, just dropped my membership from MJSA. I think MJSA has
been doing a juggling act trying to serve both the large and small
members and is in a “catch 22”. Too difficult to represent the large
and small members and keep everyone happy.

S. Lewis


#15

David, I agree with your position, I made it known by e-mailing
MJSA, acknowledging your post and telling them I agreed with what you
said. I think that Orchid is the perfect place to address this.

It is important for people to understand the facts, and speak up.

In my opinion, as a country we are getting gutted economically, and
we are doing it to ourselves.

Richard Hart


#16
They now control less than 60% of the market. If they controlled
70% they wouldn't be allowed to operate in the US, but they most
assuredly are. 

I would argue that De Beers has a larger control over the diamond
market whether they have direct sales or not. The diamond market
owes allot to DeBeers past controls and present marketing. If it
were truely a free market we wouldn’t see the prices the way they
are. I think diamond values are held up by De Beers creating the
market that presently exists.

Sam Patania, Tucson
www.bahti.com


#17

It should go back to the way it was before the ‘Global Economy’,
actually it should go back to the way it was before NAFTA.

What is the use of the ‘Global Economy’ to us? Who is buying the USA
made goods (seriously, I never studied it but…)?

Craig


#18

Ok…I’ve seen that estimated 65-75%. I took the median
average, since it wasn’t exact.

Are you saying that 60% control of a precious market is ok? What
would happen if that number were much lower?

Miachelle


#19

OK, if there are enough of us who are sick of the MJSA not
supporting American jewelers (or their counterparts) why not start a
NEW organization? I don’t think anything starts big but it can
certainly grow and I can’t imagine every American craftsman not
wanting to join and help promote the ‘Made in America’/‘Support
American Jewelers/Crafts People’ brand.

If anyone is interested in this concept lets talk off list!!

Craig


#20

other ‘observations’ to date!

A very ultra large jewellery company went “Chapter 11” a year ago up
here in Toronto for ONLY $25 million. They approached a very large
"box store". In fact, they are the world’s largest retailer (no
names here) they wanted to supply gold chains and more to them. Well
the buyers from that “store” came down and visited this plant, you
know what they told the owners? In no uncertain terms they were
’told’ if you want to do business ‘with us’, close up your factory of
400 people and open up or buy direct from the Far East. Why so? The
labour fees are so much lower, and other tax saving measures.
Apparently this Toronto company did not make the change over, and
rest is history! They almost showed the visiting staff the front
door! We have a Union officer ( Mr. Buzz Hargrove) up here, again in
Toronto, he was reported in our major newspaper two months ago with
this startling report=> “that the Far East will overtake our Can-Am
automobile market”. He stated that In15 years we will be buying cars
and trucks ONLY made from the “Pacific-Rim” countries. Then you can
all say goodbye to the major makers G.M. Ford & others. Nice, eh?

Gerry Lewy!