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Back in 2009, I wrote a “Buy American Mention of the Week” detailing the potential danger to the integrity of the “Made in U.S.A.” label, which depended heavily on a future California Supreme Court ruling concerning Kwikset Corp.

That future ruling finally is here, and Buy American advocates have won big! As of Jan. 27, 2011, four Southern Californian residents were granted the right by the California Supreme Court to sue Kwikset for falsely labeling locks as “Made in U.S.A.”

Here’s a quick history about how the Kwikset issue became such an important case with national implications. Back in 2000, handyman James Benson claimed Kwikset was selling locksets as “Made in the USA” when they actually contained screws from Taiwan and were assembled partly in Mexico.

Black & Decker-owned Kwikset was criticized by a trial court, which discovered that 25 of Kwikset’s products were improperly labeled (Kwikset admitted that two others were illegally labeled). But a court of appeal overturned that judgment on the basis of Proposition 64 (passed in 2004), which says that a consumer or business would have to prove they suffered a “loss of money or property” as a result of false advertising.

Because businesses and consumers could not show (in the eyes of that court) that the lockset products had any less market value due to the false “Made in USA” advertising, the court claimed no injury occurred. Essentially, the appellate court held that the “Made in USA” label has no market value and therefore consumers do not lose anything when they buy products falsely labeled as “Made in U.S.A.”

In my October 2009 “Buy American Mention of the Week” article, I made a call for patriotic consumer activism, urging American consumers and business owners alike to write an amicus brief to be submitted to the California Supreme Court.

Hundreds of responses from concerned American were received, and I passed those comments on to the lawyer handling the case. The issue was important to American consumers who wanted to protect their choice to buy American, American businesses that have to compete with companies that engage in unfair competition by falsely advertising their products as “Made in U.S.A.” and American workers who would see more of their jobs outsourced if the “Made in U.S.A.” label is stripped of its meaning and unenforced.

Handyman James Benson and three other citizens said they were patriotically motivated back then to buy American-made goods and would not have purchased the Kwikset locks had they been aware that the locks were not actually made in the United States.

The California Supreme Court has now ruled the buyers (Benson and the others) did in fact suffer economic harm since the product’s value – in their eyes – was diminished, and they paid a higher price for the Kwikset locks than they normally would have if the locks had been correctly and accurately labeled.

In her ruling, Justice Kathryn Werdegar wrote what many of us already know and have been saying for years: “To some consumers, processes and places or origin matter … In particular, to some consumers, the ‘Made in U.S.A.’ label matters.”

Thanks to not only those who responded with their versions of an amicus brief to the court back in 2009, but also to all those who take the time and effort to seek out and buy American-made products, awareness of the importance of “Made in U.S.A.” is again on the rise in America.
“Made in America” makes America stronger, and reflects a sound national strategy that transcends the false belief that says cheaper is better.

I’m reminded of the words of Republican President William McKinley, who had a few things to say about the word “cheap.” He said, “I do not prize the word ‘cheap. It is not a badge of honor … it is a symbol of despair. Cheap prices make for cheap goods; cheap goods make for cheap men; and cheap men make for a cheap country!”

We clearly do not want a cheap country. We want a country with high standards and values, and high wages for American workers so they can afford to buy the products made in their own country by other fellow Americans. We need our nation to reflect the vision of the founders, who advocated and emphasized self-reliance, self-sufficiency, and independence. These American traditions and values are consistent with what motivates many of us to buy American, so we can create wealth and retain prosperity within our sovereign borders and America can remain forever sovereign and in control of her own destiny.

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