The Etsy strike was a long time coming

For Kristi Cassidy, Etsy was a boon to her business, at least initially.

Since 2006, Cassidy has used the e-commerce giant to sell their bespoke Gothic, Victorian and Steampunk wedding dresses and costumes. As someone who makes all of her own products and needs to keep up with the demands of a shop, Etsy has made it easy for her to connect with customers.

But a long list of policy changes at Etsy has hurt business, according to Cassidy. Worst of all, as Etsy has reported increasing profits over the years, the company has also increased the fee it charges sellers. As a result, she lost more than two-thirds of her income. “The platform has only gradually degraded over time,” she says. “They made all these changes that favored items that sell faster, items that sell cheaper, or items that aren’t made to order.” (Etsy did not respond to a request for comment.)

Things reached a turning point when in a Results call February 2022, Etsy announced a 30% increase in seller fees (from 5% to 6.5%), effective Monday. And now Cassidy — along with tens of thousands of other Etsy sellers — is taking a stand.

An Etsy seller strike — a collective action of more than 18,000 — went into effect on Monday (the same day as the price hike). Strikers are taking one of two actions: putting their shops on “holiday mode,” which means closing them temporarily; or disable all entries. Cassidy, one of the strike organizers, says the former option is better for sellers. “[Deactivating listings] doesn’t bring you that much into the algorithm,” she says. “Putting your shop on ‘vacation mode’ somehow resets your place in Etsy search.”

Organizers are urging customers to go on strike with them and refrain from buying items off the site until at least April 18. they also created a petition with over 60,000 signatures at the time of publication. In a letter to Etsy CEO Josh Silverman, the strike organizers expressed their hope of repairing the relationship between the company and the seller. “We do not want a protracted struggle, but our movement will only continue to grow if these issues are not addressed,” they write in the letter.

In addition to lifting the fee increase, strikers demand a crackdown on resellers, an overhaul of the seller support system, and the ability for sellers to opt out of costly offsite ads on sites like Facebook and Google. Cassidy says the latter point is especially important: Her products are made to order, and she’s not able to keep up with the increasing number of orders placed through offsite ads. Worse, offsite ads charge sellers a 12% fee on all purchases.

Cassidy says she sympathizes with those who are unable to participate in the strike because their livelihood is tied to the income they earn through the platform. Still, she encouraged those unable to attend directly to spread the word through social media or listings in her store.

That’s not to say there aren’t people relying on Etsy to pay the bills, joining the chorus of angry voices. Mattie Boyd, a 32-year-old Etsy seller whose shop consists of graphic t-shirts and patches, began focusing fully on making money on Etsy in 2020. Boyd says the fee increase was “a slap in the face”. They understand that they lose more money on strikes than average, but wanted to emphasize that Etsy sellers are mostly women and minorities.

“They’re queer people, they’re trans people, they’re people of color, and they’re people with disabilities or neurodivergent,” they say. “The people it hurts have a face, and it looks very different from Etsy’s board of directors and corporate structure.”

Cassidy says the strikers’ ultimate goal is to build a union for Etsy sellers. “We’re kind of in uncharted territory, so we’re not entirely sure what that actually looks like,” she says, adding that the strikers have union organizers “in play [their] Center.” The Etsy strike was a long time coming


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