CHEAP DOLLS, CHEAP WORKERS - Middleton Dolls Off To India


The artisans and crafts people from Washington and Wood counties who made Lee Middleton's Original Dolls stood outside the Belpre, Ohio plant yesterday, picketing the loss of their jobs to China.

It was the last day for the famous doll company.

Some of the workers had been with the company since the first day it opened 25 years ago.

Most of the employees have played an integral part in the artistic creation of the life-like dolls, at least that's what tourists used to be told while taking the popular plant tour.

The high-profile company was the last domestic doll plant in the US.

All have moved abroad.

The company president told workers "We have been challenged by the competition from imported dolls ... despite company-wide efforts to reduce our operating expenses without compromising the quality of our dolls, and in order to ensure the long-term viability of our company, we have made the difficult decision to move."

Interpretation: We need to make cheaper dolls with cheaper workers.

The late artist Lee Middleton was the founder of the company, introducing her own techniques for sculpture and doll production. She began her doll-making career in 1978 inside her home in Belpre. The sheer volume of orders for her doll creations spearheaded the construction of a 34,000-square-foot facility in Belpre.

Middleton dolls are packaged with their own tiny bible tucked inside, likely printed in India.

Lee Middleton, who died of cancer in 1997, considered the bibles an extension of her Christian values and a way of "giving credit where credit is due," said the company Public Relations Department, which will likely be outsourced to Mexico.

"There is only one Creator. I am merely a re-creator," she said.

Meanwhile, the artisans and workers will get US government displacement money to be re-trained for jobs that likely do not exist.

Maybe they can fish one of those tiny bibles out of a doll box and hang on to some hope, but it could be in Hindu.