Name: Joe Ryan, 48
Profession: Owner, SanDiegoStuff.com
Location: Pine Valley, Calif.
"My wife, Gilda, and I, sell computer products online as well as handmade goods from Mexico. Our business launched in 2000, and while the business is doing well, our competition has gotten increasingly unfair. The craftspeople in Mexico do a great job of catering to our customers, making saddles and hats that fit their needs.
But both our electronics business and our artisan goods face a lot of competition from the Chinese, who sell knock-off goods at much lower prices. The quality of these cheap goods can't compare to ours, but Americans, particularly in this tough economy, will see only the price tag.
I've been able to market myself well, picturing my electronics products on scales, for instance, so that the consumer can see they are authentic by weight. (Cheaply made AC adaptors will weigh less and could damage a computer by overheating.)
I don't mind having competition and having to creatively advertise. I realize that's part of being a businessperson. But what bothers me is that the people who make these cheap products work under labor standards that are not those I expect of the people who make my products.
I believe in capitalism and free trade so long as it's moral. If the workers have to work around the clock, without vacations or breaks and cannot return to their families for years, I have to say that it's a human rights issue as much as it is a trade issue.
I'm impressed that Obama has already taken a hard stance against torture and I hope he can take that same stance against poor labor standards. That may mean people in this country will have to make sacrifices, but if the issue is not addressed, we'll be seeing a race to the bottom and a world system that's built on ruthlessness." - as told to Emily Maltby
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