Thousands of Etsy sellers are striking this week
After the company hiked some fees, Etsy’s creatives are saying the site has strayed from its original mission.
More than 14,000 vendors from the popular craft commerce website Etsy are striking this week, protesting the company’s new increase in transaction fees. Sellers claim the hike is nothing more than an exercise in “pandemic profiteering” that comes after years of Etsy earning skyrocketing profits thanks to their collective work.
“As individual crafters, makers, and small businesspeople, we may be easy for a giant corporation like Etsy to take advantage of,” labor organizers wrote in an online petition explaining the strike, which has garnered more than 50,000 signatures of support so far. “As an organized front of people, determined to use our diverse skills and boundless creativity to win ourselves a fairer deal, Etsy won’t have such an easy time shoving us around.”
In addition to the transaction fee hike, Etsy shop owners are also striking against the company’s use of offsite ads. In some cases, Etsy will pay for ads for a shop without the seller’s approval — and if those ads lead to a sale, Etsy will then take a larger chunk of the profit.
“I do a lot of custom-made dresses,” striker organizer Kristi Cassidy explained to Yahoo! Finance. “Offsite ads made my business completely untenable. It’s not possible to run a business based on custom commissions if it’s possible for an ad fee to be charged to any one of your custom orders. So running a custom-made business when you don’t know how much you're going to be making for each order, it just doesn’t work.”
“For me personally, I have to leave if [Etsy doesn’t] listen to us with this petition,” she added.
In a statement to TechCrunch, a company spokesperson stressed that “our sellers’ success is a top priority for Etsy.” They continued:
We are always receptive to seller feedback and, in fact, the new fee structure will enable us to increase our investments in areas outlined in the petition, including marketing, customer support, and removing listings that don’t meet our policies. We are committed to providing great value for our 5.3 million sellers so they are able to grow their businesses while keeping Etsy a beloved, trusted, and thriving marketplace.
But as organizers point out in their petition, the company’s folksy platitudes toward its sellers bely its true nature as a tech behemoth that’s strayed from its original mission. “Etsy was founded with a vision of ‘keeping commerce human’ by ‘democratizing access to entrepreneurship,’” they write. “As a result, people who have been marginalized in traditional retail economies — women, people of color, LGBTQ people, neurodivergent people, etc. — make up a significant proportion of Etsy's sellers. For many of us, Etsy makes up our main source of income.”
“But as Etsy has strayed further and further from its founding vision over the years, what began as an experiment in marketplace democracy has come to resemble a dictatorial relationship between a faceless tech empire and millions of exploited, majority-women craftspeople,” the organizers conclude.
It’s that that spirit of decentralized grassroots organization that Cassidy credits for moving this week’s strike forward, telling Yahoo! Finance that “we started on Reddit, and then we’ve kind of grown this in a way where we’re having — we have people come and help.”
“So what we’ve got right now is probably thousands of people working together to spread the word on social media,” she added. The Etsy strike is currently slated to last just one week, through April 18. However, organizers promise that “this is one action in a string of steps” if their demands aren’t met.