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Ontario Flashlight Firm Set For ‘Made In USA’ Showdown

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Dave Bryan joined the KCAL9 news team in March, 1994, after ha...
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ONTARIO (CBS) — These are tough times for Mag Instrument Inc., whose Maglite has defined quality flashlights in America for a half-century.

The company’s 82-year old founder and president, Anthony Maglica, who still spends part of his day working in the tool, dye, and mold shop, told KCAL9′s Dave Bryan the tough times really hit home when he had to send out pink slips.

“I should really reduce the staff down to between 400 and 500, but where are they gonna go?” said Maglica. “There is no jobs.”

Maglica says there’s more than the slow economy at work here.

For years, he has battled to gain the designation “Made in the USA” for his flashlights, which he says contain almost 100 percent American made parts and are assembled right here in Ontario – all but a handful of parts, he says, that either aren’t made in America or are prohibitively expensive in the US.

California has the strictest standards in the country for companies that want the “Made in the USA” designation, and supporters of the law say the law should be strict because it’s a truth in advertising issue.

“If it’s all made in the USA, then a company can say it’s ‘Made in the USA’,” said consumer attorney Tim Blood. “But if it’s only partially made in the USA, then a company is free to say, ‘Partially Made’ or ‘Mostly Made in the USA’, or ‘Assembled in the USA by American Workers’, that’s all totally fine.”

In fact, the Maglite packaging does have an American flag in the upper corner with the words “A USA Manufacturer”, but Maglica charges that in the global economy of 2012, its almost impossible to have every tiny O-ring made in the US, where they cost 25 times as much as China.

“All I’m asking, to be equal to New York State, to Washington, anywhere where I can put ‘Made in the USA’, but I can’t put it in California, where I make it,” said Maglica.

But this month, an attempt to soften the California rules, which had already pass the Assembly with no dissent, lost by one vote in a state senate committee chaired by Sen. Mark Leno, from San Francisco.

Supporters of the tough statute argue that without it companies would take all kinds of liberties with “Made in America”.

“If they want to be able to say, ‘Made in the USA’, and it’s worth it to them economically to say, ‘Made in the USA’, and they’re going to make money off it, they they can make that determination and they can actually have the parts made in the USA,” said Blood.

Maglica says the “Made in the USA” designation would give him a slight edge over the cheaper knockoff flashlights made outside the country, but he’s running out of time.

“I’m so frustrated, because it’s so unfair, that the guy that brings the stuff from China, all the junk, and I have no advantage over him at all,” said Maglica.

But Blood believes the designation goes much deeper than simply a superficial sticker.

“If it’s ‘Made in the USA’, it ought to be made in the USA,” he said. “It’s a jobs issue, it’s a consumer rights issue, it’s good for the economy, it’s good for the market, and the way you keep markets clean is to keep fraud out of it.”

Attempts to reach Leno and other lawmakers who voted against softening the state rules against the “Made in the USA” designation for comment were unsuccessful.

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