Mark Lenihan / AB
Thousands of ETC vendors – artists who make money selling their handmade products on the internet – are closing their (online) stores every week and going on strike.
Earlier this year, Etsy CEO Josh Silverman announced that it would raise the 5% transaction fee for sellers to 6.5% from April 11. This was done to fund other changes in marketing and sales tools, Silverman said.
Vendors are tired of the new transaction fees and other Etsy-imposed costs. Many vendors believe that Etsy aims to exploit the platform’s independent artists through these new policies.
In response, Etsy vendors launched a joint campaign urging other artisans and their customers to leave the site for a week in protest. Organizers said more than 5,000 stores have pledged to participate this week.
In a letter to Silverman on Monday, the Etsy strikers said: “Etsy has become a completely hostile place for real small businesses to operate. For full – time and part – time sellers, changes in Etsy have brought many of us to the brink of financial ruin.”
“After giving Etsy a two-year record profit in an unimaginably difficult situation, we are tired, frustrated and ready to fight for a seat at the table,” they added.
It is not a strike on legal or traditional grounds. Therefore, there will be no physical stirring lines. Vendors are not workers, Etsy is not their employer, and they are not subject to the National Labor Relations Act.
But for Lori Peterson, Etsy’s saleswoman, the system is like a traditional employer-employee relationship.
“Technically we are ETC’s customers because they have a platform and we are in it,” he told NPR. “But we work for them and they make money directly from our labor.”
The collective action of Etsy vendors is part of a broader wave of workers pushing corporations for better conditions and wages. It comes just days after workers at Amazon on Staten Island and employees at some Starbucks locations voted to go on strike.
Off-site advertising and other fees are affected, sellers say
Christy Cassidy has been selling her Victorian, Gothic, Steampunk wedding dresses and dresses on Etsy’s online marketplace since 2007.
His product was primary, but Cassidy found a home in the ETC that specializes in selling handmade or vintage items. She was able to make a living by creating customized clothing for her clients.
That is, until the ETC starts making big changes, he told NPR. This latest tariff hike comes after a few years of transaction fees for sellers.
“It felt like I was putting more and more work in my store and getting less of it when I go,” he said.
After discovering that other vendors on social media felt the same way, Cassidy helped organize the Etsy strike campaign.
Vendors report seeing more resellers on the site and some shops stealing other artists’ designs. Many who spoke with NPR said they felt that ETC had done nothing about the complaints it was submitting to the company about these issues.
These independent stores prefer to opt out of off-site advertising. These are ads created by Etsy for specific lists to be published across the Internet; Once the sale is based on these ads, the cost is pushed to the sellers.
Cassidy said those ads make it difficult to know what he will take home from custom orders.
“Off-site advertising makes my business completely unsustainable,” he said.
Organizers say more action is needed
According to Etsy, its site has 5.3 million active sellers and more than 90 million active buyers. The company has protected the payment structure.
“The success of our vendors is a top priority for Etsy. We always accept vendor feedback, in fact, the new payment system will help us increase our investment in the areas outlined in the petition, including marketing, customer support and elimination. Lists that do not meet our policies,” an Etsy spokesman said.
Nicole Lewis, who runs her own Etsy store, defended the company. He called on artists to raise prices, do other things to reduce costs, and not attack the company.
“If this tariff hike makes you nervous, your prices are not right,” he told NPR. “There are a lot of things vendors can do behind the scenes in their decision … these costs can be drastically reduced.”
Peterson did not want to do that.
“I do not want to milk my customers as much as I can. I feel obligated to give my customers a fair price. I want to see my art in the world,” he said. Said. “That’s it for me as an artist.”
The sellers, who spoke with NPR, said it would not be the last of these types of performances by artists on Etsy.
Leading organizers behind the Etsy strike are considering turning the initiative into a kind of labor organization for independent vendors, Cassidy said.
“I don’t know what we call it, but we are all determined to make it come true,” he said. “We’ve all been in it for a long time.”