Liberty Tabletop is the only remaining flatware manufacturer in the US, and rose from the ashes of the old Oneida facility in Sherrill, NY when they moved their operations overseas. With green credentials, and fair working conditions, they are still able to deliver affordable, beautiful products to consumers thanks to the internet – they can cut out the ‘middle men’.
Before we get stuck into the Liberty story, which is a captivating one, I wanted to clear one thing up. Outsourcing is rarely about cutting the price for consumers, and most often about increasing corporate profits at the expense of American workers. What’s worse is it’s often a way for companies to skirt around labor laws that actually protect workers and make sure the products we enjoy are made in line with the rights we believe as a society that all people have.
In fact, the workers, and companies that employ them, are paid so little by the western profiteers that, as Forbes reported virtually none of the profits made by Apple on their iPad actually stay in China. Of course, those cost savings aren’t passed on to consumers, they just allow Apple to make profit from work that’s done, according to c|net under conditions that wouldn’t be tolerated in the US.
We have an upcoming editorial too where I investigated a community of resellers on Amazon. You’ll be shocked to learn that the manufacturing prices are so cheap in China, that resellers in China can afford to buy factory goods, resell them to another reseller in the US, who rebrands and then sells it on to consumers. By the time you receive it, it’s no longer meaningfully cheap, and someone worked in brutal conditions to deliver profits to a series of middlemen.
Aside from the ethical concerns, shipping goods thousands of miles doesn’t do wonders for the environment. Manufacturing in the USA allows the flatware to travel just 1,370 miles on average from factory to consumer. Earth 911 reports that a staggering distance of 8,200 miles is more common for overseas competitors. All that extra travel means belching tonnes of waste into the environment.
Cheap also means no hand-polished flatware at many of those overseas factories. Instead your beautiful table set from China is doused with toxic chemicals before being shipped. Those chemicals might give the flatware a good lustre, but the oft-used trichloroethylene, or TCE, is carcinogenic. Of course that’s hardly a great idea for a product people will be using to eat their food.
The Sherrill factory, where Liberty Tabletop now produces, was once staffed by thousands and turning out millions of items of flatware for the industry giant Oneida. But when they ran into problems of their own, Oneida shuttered the operation and moved overseas. Some projects were retained by Sherrill Manufacturing but financial pressure led to bankruptcy and a two-year shutdown starting in 2010.
Luckily the owners, some of whom had grandparents who worked there, had a vision for recovery and the Liberty Tabletop website was launched selling direct to consumers. In an interview with the New York Times, they explained their strategy for the future.
Being a small manufacturer, we know we can’t compete head-to-head against Asia,” Mr. Owens said. “Labor, regulations, steel prices — everything gives them a cost advantage.
By selling directly to customers online, advertising on Google and Facebook, and building a stronger social media presence, they hope to tell their story of stellar environmental responsibility, ethical production, and beautifully crafted flatware to a wider audience as well as their traditional bedrock – made in America enthusiasts.
Like never before, manufacturers can directly target their audience, without relying on middle-men like large retailers, importers and wholesalers. That affords consumers more choice, at competitive prices, which means you don’t have to compromise your ethics, and treat overseas workers like proxy-slaves to kit out your home with beautiful products that you love.
If you love the environment, Made in USA products, and a story about the web saving an American factory with a great history, let your friends on social media know about Liberty Tabletop.
Disclosure: Verticem Ltd, the owners of Tech Function, have or have had a commercial relationship with Liberty Tabletop. This article was written by an independent writer, based on interviews with Liberty and the wide press coverage they are receiving on major news outlets. We pride ourselves on our editorial integrity and Tech Function makes editorial decision independently of other parts of the Verticem group.
[Image Credits: Liberty Tabletop]