The makers of your favourite personalised pillow cases and DIY jewellery on Etsy are preparing for a digital strike in protest of what they see as exorbitant seller fees.
Organisers say the strike will begin on April 11. For the duration of the protest, they are planning to put their shops on Esty’s “vacation mode” in protest. They are also calling on buyers to boycott Etsy products from April 11th to 18th.
As of writing on Wednesday afternoon, nearly 17,00 people had signed an online petition in support of the strike, though how many of the signatories were Etsy sellers was not immediately clear. Though commenters on the petition page cite a vast and varied assortment of disagreements with Etsy executives, the straw that broke the camel’s back appears to be the company’s recent decision to increase seller transaction fees by 30%. That fee change, set to take effect April 11, would raise the seller fee from 5 to 6.5%. It also comes months after Etsy recorded record fourth quarter revenues in 2021.
“Raising fees so high, making advertising fees mandatory, and guilt-tripping sellers into offering free shipping is chiseling away every penny I could make on sales,” one petitioner wrote. “That’s if clients can even find me amongst the dropshippers and copyright infringers who have swarmed the site.”
The sellers are calling on Etsy to kill the transaction fee increase, produce a new plan for guarding against resellers, implement a faster appeals process, end its Star Seller program, and allow all sellers to opt-out of Offside Ads and the fees that come with them.
When the price hike goes into effect, the petitioners say it will mark the second increase since 2018 and will result in a doubling of fees in less than four years. Offsite ads, which can be crucial for sellers trying to expand their reach, result in sellers having to reportedly pay another 12-15% fee for each item sold.
The petitioners also take issue with Etsy’s growing use of moderation bots, which they claim are shutting down sellers for unclear reasons. At the same time, the sellers believe Etsy isn’t doing enough to prevent low-quality, mass-produced copycats from seeping their way onto the platform.
“Rather than rewarding the sellers whose hard work has enabled Etsy to become one of the most profitable tech companies in the world, Etsy gouges us, ignores us and patronizes us,” the organisers write.
Other commenters specifically called out CEO Josh Silverman, who one petitioner said, has implemented policies that prioritise the buyer and put the seller second. “He is looking to make Etsy the next Amazon,” that person wrote. Silverman became Etsy’s CEO in 2017, according to his LinkedIn page.
In an email, an Etsy spokesperson told Gizmodo the petition represents less than .03% of its total seller base and that the organisers’ perspectives did not match the point of view of all sellers on the site.
“We’re committed to supporting our community of 5.3 million sellers around the world by helping them grow their businesses,” an Etsy spokesperson said. “Sellers have consistently told us they want us to expand our efforts around marketing, customer support, and removing listings that don’t meet our policies. Our revised fee structure will enable us to increase our investments in each of these key areas so that we can better serve our community and keep Etsy a beloved, trusted, and thriving marketplace.”
Etsy Workers Are The Latest Example of Burgeoning Tech Labour Movement
The tech industry as a whole saw a record number of new unions formed last year, according to data from the group Collective Action in Tech. A dozen new tech unions — including the Alphabet Workers Union, Code for America, and The New York Times’ tech workers — formed in 2021.
Though the Etsy sellers aren’t unionized, they are attempting to use the power of the internet and collective bargaining tacts to their favour. Recent polling suggests Etsy likely has the majority of Americans on their side: 77% of registered voters surveyed in a February Politico/Morning Consult poll said they support employee rights to collective bargaining.
Editor’s Note: Release dates within this article are based in the U.S., but will be updated with local Australian dates as soon as we know more.