I, for one, will not go down without a fight, nor will I go quietly. Last January, I lost my middle-management position in an importer which sold goods to television networks.
I had to apply for state aid by going to the New York State Department of Labor to collect unemployment insurance. My weekly benefits were approved, but I frowned at the fact that they would be less than one third of my regular salary. I began my job search two days after being let go.
Fast forward to March. After submitting close to fifty résumés and not receiving even one bite, a friend of mine suggested I dumb it down. He felt this was the age of "less," and my resume needed to reflect that. I did so, and the calls began for interviews. However, once I sat opposite people who were going to lead me, it was quite apparent that my résumé was misleading. I was never called back, and rightly so, for being dishonest...so back-to-the-truth résumé and once again, no calls. I wanted to explain to them that I dumbed down simply to try to get my foot in the door. I need a job.
Two weeks later, off to New York State unemployment for my required meeting. The state looks at your résumé and tries to help you gain employment again. I was excited. My advisor was unable to find any errors with my résumé and felt bad that someone like me was not retraining material, but he wished me luck. I was told that if I had worked in exports, then I might have had a chance of being labeled a dislocated worker, but because I was an importer, well, no cigar. Export? I laughed. The unions killed those jobs years ago. My advisor raised his eyebrow. I had forgotten for a moment that I live in a liberal state, and I walked out of the metal-detector-guarded building in shock.
Now, let's come to June. I'm tired. My husband is not working full-time any longer, still no prospects for employment, savings getting smaller, still no health benefits, crop failure due to rain and a cold summer, so I decided maybe I should open my own business. I've been in the importing field for over fifteen years, have great contacts, and would love to cater to girls and women, offering gifts and cosmetics at affordable prices. I would take the last bit of my hard-earned savings and pull myself up. I would keep it small, work with only quality goods, and make my way out of the sea of despair.
I mentioned this to a friend, who wisely told me, "Oh, you need New York's permission to start a business." I called New York State Department of Labor, and after being lost within their phone system for two days, received my answer: NO! It appears one has to decide during the first thirteen weeks of their unemployment insurance that they will exhaust their benefits, which now runs up to 52-weeks-plus, in order to quality for the "start your own business" program. I'm required to have a crystal ball?
Now what? It's October, no job offers, no calls. My survival instinct kicks in. I own a home, have two young boys and, dammit, have been paying taxes all my life, and much more than they have been feeding me in unemployment benefits. I didn't care what New York said because this would eventually be about feeding my children.
It appears that even doing research for starting a business is also against the law. I guess New York State wants to tell me what to do with all of my free time. I've had this amazing idea for a children's craft kit in my head for years, and it would be the bread and butter of my new business. I'm not a crook, for goodness' sake, and respect the law. However, I'm able to open a business and look for a job at the same time. I once worked 60-80 hours a week, New York! Shall I simply wait, roll over, lose my home, and go on welfare because those in office do not represent me? I would actually feel shame if this occurred.
Well, then, came along another government obstacle. A law passed in 2008, called CPSIA, takes away my right to hand-create many things for children without third-party laboratory testing. I have been in manufacturing all my life and am appalled. They want most home-made goods, although already proven to be safe, to be tested by February 2010. This is a direct response to Mattel and their China-based lead problem, so now Mom and Pop are going to suffer, while Mattel petitioned Congress and received a stay to keep their "in-house" safety testing. No, this cannot be true! Sure, it may be a pretty blue dress, and cloth is exempt (as if cotton ever had lead in it to begin with), but once a crafter adds a zipper, a snap, and elastic, and wants to sell it for a child under 12, it becomes a potentially lead-infested, phthalic item. She who creates the item automatically becomes a manufacturer, so it must be tested by a lab to assure that it meets the new requirements before it can be sold. I wondered if duct tape was exempt under this new law. Never mind.
However, this is so much bigger than me. I have purchased crafting items all my life. I know who these people are. Their cloth, their beads, their talent is American. Toys, dresses, books, and such items are not meant for eating, and that is how these poisons are transferred. We all want our children to be safe, but why punish those that have played by the rules and have their lives and blood invested in this?
When my boys were little, they wore nothing on their feet but moccasins. Moccasins are perfect for new feet, and ours were made by local Native Americans. The items were of top quality, and I'm sure that if I searched my attic, I could find a pair over ten years old that's still wearable.
What will happen to all the mothers who make extra money using their craft and talent so they can stay home and raise their children? What will happen to Etsy.com? In my opinion, this new government initiative assures that we all wear the Made in China label from our largest manufacturers. What is the "I don't read the bill" Congress trying to accomplish here?
I hate to elaborate further on what they may be trying to do, but many of us will not go away. They will go away first. You can't keep us down, or make us hopeless, or force us to apologize for who we are. You shouldn't be able to tell me whether or not I can do research for a future, free of government handouts. Living the law would have put me into a dangerous position. I would have no unemployment benefits, and now more regulations to contend with. I can't meet those requirements and make a profit.
I have always prided myself on being independent, and my friends have often referred to me as the kitchen witch because of my organic garden and all the herbs I grow. I wonder how long before the state comes after me to test my crops? After all, I do give basil and rosemary to my neighbors all summer long. It may not be safe!
There appears to be a pattern of government intrusion upon our lives "for our own good." Benjamin Franklin once said, "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." This is where we are today. I would like to tell Congress something though: I will see you all soon. I have lots of free time. My broom is ready, and I will be doing more than flying around on it. I'm ready to work hard to assure a good, clean house-sweeping in 2010.