Last updated on May 29, 2019
Serious question: What the hell does the Trump administration have against babies?
OK, it’s one thing to cut children’s health insurance and then their SNAP benefits. Yet we’ve never before dealt with someone who called putting toddlers in cages a “deterrence tactic,” nor someone who thought nothing of kidnapping small children from their parents and then subsequently losing them.
All things considered, it should probably have come as no surprise that when a morally-bankrupt company refused a safety recall on a product that consistently harmed small children, Trump’s people immediately stepped in—to help that company continue to harm children.
Between 2012 and 2018, there were nearly 100 injuries with the Britax Child Safety 3-wheeled BOB jogging strollers—caused by the front wheel flying off with no warning. Both children and adults were harmed, with injuries ranging from bleeding to smashed teeth, scraped faces, torn ligaments, and broken bones. One small kid bled from his ear canal.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) had seen enough, and requested that Britax conduct a voluntary recall on BOB jogging strollers that were built before October 2015. The company absolutely refused. Not only that, the Washington Post reports, they refused to warn their customers.
The company said the strollers were safe when used as instructed and met industry standards for safety.
The agency didn’t back down. It sued to force a recall in February 2018. Britax kept fighting. That was unusual. Companies normally want to avoid public clashes with safety regulators, according to past and current agency staff members.
At the time, the commission was composed of three Democratic commissioners and one GOP commissioner.
The GOP commissioner was Ann Marie Buerkle, who had taken over as acting chair under Trump the year prior. The Dem commissioners say she forbade staff members from pressuring the company into the voluntary recall.
However, since the Democratic commissioners had a majority, and fearing many more children would get harmed, they voted to sue Britax in February 2018. The vote was three to one, with all Democrats voting yes and Ann Marie Buerkle voting no.
Even after getting sued, Britax refused to order a recall. The company did improve their design for a new model so the front wheel wouldn’t come off as easily, but did nothing about the hundreds of thousands of strollers with the old design that were already out in the world, carrying babies.
As the Post notes, a company fighting a safety recall is not normal—especially if they are taken to court over it. Britax’s refusal to comply led to the first lawsuit by CPSC in six years. However, Britax does have a lobbyist, and friends on Capitol Hill.
The company had a different plan: Wait until the commission was taken over by Trump appointees and then make the entire thing go away.
According to The Post, the plan worked.
By November, the commission’s lawsuit against Britax ended with a settlement, approved by a 3-to-2 commission vote reflecting the new Republican majority.
Two Republicans awaited confirmation with the Senate, and with their approval, the Republicans assumed a majority on the CSPC for the first time in a decade, with former GOP Senate staffer Peter Feldman, and Dana Baiocco, a Republican attorney who defended companies from product liability claims.
The Republican chairwoman, Ann Marie Buerkle, wasted no time. Not only were Democratic commissioners kept in the dark about the stroller investigation, Buerkle helped end their case in court with a ridiculously stupid solution. Instead of a recall, Britax only needed to promote a “public safety campaign,” and offer a replacement part or a discount to those who requested one.
Even though the entire purpose of the CPSC is to promote the safety of consumer products, especially for children, Trump’s new GOP majority apparently doesn’t feel that way:
Despite the numerous injuries, Britax company president Robert McCutcheon vehemently denies there’s anything wrong with the strollers and was quite happy with the new leadership’s decision. Even his company’s news release said the company was “pleased to announce” the very favorable resolution.
It didn’t stop with dangerous strollers, either.
According to the Washington Post, the number of companies fined for misconduct was cut more than half since Buerkle took over. She and her Trump allies have given other companies a roadmap to follow if they are worried about expensive recalls.
Hopefully this story gets enough attention so other shady companies won’t be tempted to ever judge a baby’s safety against their bottom line. We can’t count on quality public servants in this administration to take care of our safety, and especially not the safety of children—who for some reason have drawn a peculiar ire from this new brand of Republican. Yet we can damn sure rely on each other to spread the word, and to not make it profitable for companies to fight tooth and nail for the Trump administration’s permission to harm children.
- Britax US Facebook page
- Britax Twitter
- Phone number Britax gave to complain about this incident: 1-888-427-4829
- Ann Marie Buerkle’s CPSC Twitter
- CPSC Facebook page
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