Industry take heed of tobacco's battle
Watching the political jitterbug over the huge proposed tobacco industry settlement should offer plastics industry supporters and critics alike a good look at the sort of brawl they ardently should strive to avoid in the future.
The example points to the need for the industry to continue to support believable, independent scientific research on the safety of plastics. And, as important, to make sure that industry does all it can to clean up its act and make products as safe as possible.
First, we should be clear that we're not likening tobacco to plastics. Few people outside the tobacco industry believe cigarettes don't cause cancer. Groups critical of the tobacco industry are large, well-organized, highly respected and well-financed. And they have volumes of medical research on their side.
In comparison, critics of PVC, for example, look like the Keystone Kops. Nevertheless, the tobacco settlement offers an interesting lesson.
Tobacco company officials think it's worth $370 billion, plus new Food and Drug Administration regulation, plus harsh new advertising restrictions to make the industry immune from new class-action lawsuits and to cap punitive damages.
Yet many tobacco critics don't think the settlement goes far enough. They would prefer to hound the industry to death, following the recent examples of asbestos and silicone breast implants.
Perhaps tobacco deserves that fate. But pause for a moment and imagine that plastics adversaries applied the same dogged determination to prosecuting some segment of this industry.
Would it seem fair, then, to pay a king's ransom to enrich state and federal coffers as well as lawyers' pockets to limit future liability? Because we have no doubt that if the tobacco effort succeeds, others will follow, regardless of the strength of the evidence.
Slow payment policy harming mold makers
Mold makers have a million sob stories about being stiffed for tooling. It's the price you pay when you make a living selling expensive products that your customers prefer to amortize over a longer stretch.
But recent problems in the automotive industry are notable for their unusually unjust character.
As Joseph Pryweller reported last week, the problem stems from a subtle change in Big Three accounting practices. Automakers now wait to pay suppliers until after parts are approved for production — not when the goods are completed. In the best cases, that means mold makers wait six to nine months to be paid.
But let's say an automaker delays a new model introduction — a decision over which the toolmaker has no control. Then the mold bill could be on ice for a few years. Some small mold makers now find themselves in bankruptcy as a result.
The situation points to the pressing need for fresh mold-lien legislation, particularly in Michigan.