It’s time U.S. firms did the right thing

I’ve picked on China, or at least capitalism as practiced in China, for the past year or so.

It’s been fun, although it’s a weird sense of fun. It’s hard to write about toothpaste sweetened with anti-freeze or children’s toys made with a form of illegal drugs without a bit of a dark sense of humor.

Truth is, China’s been an easy target.

It’s new to this capitalism game. Instead of years and years of rules and safety regulations to follow, the Chinese mostly just follow the money. From what I can tell, things are improving, with both the U.S. and China providing more inspection.

What I don’t get — and what is not funny, even in that dark humor sort of way — is what U.S. companies have been up to these days.

Tell me Southwest Airlines, how do you explain not checking your planes for cracks? A mistake? Then tell us why you continued to fly 50 planes after regulators told you that the inspections had been missed? The government is fining Southwest $10.2 million. I hope it gets the message.

The reason why the airlines have been so safe through the years is that the government has established so many inspections and the companies have been pushed into completing them.

Word that the FAA knew the inspections weren’t being made and allowed Southwest to continue to fly the jets is disturbing.

How can we get on our high horse with China over putting too much lead in our toys if we don’t make our own companies ensure that their planes won’t fall from the sky?

There is no humor in airline safety.

I have to add that I did find humor of the dark variety in a story last week on how Bay Valley Foods of Green Bay, Wis., was dumping Mount Vernon farmers for their counterparts in India to secure cucumbers to make pickles.

The cucumbers from India will be used to make Nalley, Farman and Steinfeld’s pickles, whose slogans are, respectively, “Down home taste of the Northwest since 1918,” “Delicious taste of the Northwest since 1944” and “Quality brand of the Northwest since 1922.”

So much for truth in marketing.

Farmers in our area will lose millions of dollars this year. That isn’t funny.

I do think it’s weird that India, which recently bought the rights to build Jaguars and Land Rovers, will now also supply Northwest pickles.

Apparently, I’m not alone.

Friday morning, I talked with Lois Warlick-Jarvie, a senior vice president of Birds Eye Foods in Rochester, New York. She had called because of a wire story that we’d run on the pickle decision.

Warlick-Jarvie said that Birds Eye, which makes Nalley Chili and some other Nalley products in Tacoma, had licensed the Nalley pickle business to Bay Valley Foods.

She said her company is getting hammered because of the decision, but really had nothing to do with it.

So don’t blame Birds Eye.

I enjoyed talking to Warlick-Jarvie, who ended a follow-up e-mail with a quote that I’d like to share with you. I don’t know if it’s a company motto or a personal one, but it seems fitting for today’s topic. I’d love it if everyone in business took a moment to think about it: “The courage of integrity … choosing right over wrong, ethics over convenience, and truth over popularity; these are the choices that measure your life. Travel the path of integrity without looking back, for there is never a wrong time to do the right thing.”

Mike Benbow: 425-339-3459;

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