Some Etsy sellers to strike as online marketplace hikes transaction fees
(CNN) -- A coalition of thousands of Etsy sellers signaled support for a one-week strike starting on Monday — the same day the online marketplace known for its unique handicrafts will start hiking the fees it charges those who use its platform to earn a living.
An online petition started by Etsy shop owner Kristi Cassidy urging the company to cancel the fee increases — which tick up from 5% to 6.5% starting Monday — has garnered nearly 50,000 signatures. Of those signatories, some 18,500 come from people who have identified as Etsy sellers who support the strike, according to Etsy shop operator and strike participant Mattie Boyd.
"We feel like we deserve a seat at the table," Boyd told CNN Business. "And we hope these demands are met, that's our immediate goal. But, generally, there's got to be some kind of change, where there's some kind of dialogue, or Etsy sellers have some kind of representation where these decisions are being made."
Sellers participating in the strike are putting their shops on "vacation mode" for a week starting Monday, according to Cassidy's petition, a temporary setting that lets users essentially put their Etsy shop on hold for a designated period of time.
Etsy CEO Josh Silverman announced the fee increases in a memo to sellers in late February.
The letter touted Etsy's massive growth over the past two years, boasting how active sellers last year increased their sales by "23% on average compared to 2019, and in 2021 alone, we showed more than 90 million active buyers worldwide that there's an alternative to big-box, automated shopping."
Silverman then announced plans to "make significant investments in marketing, seller tools, and creating a world-class customer experience so we can continue this tremendous growth."
"To support this goal, on April 11 we will increase our current 5% transaction fee to 6.5%," Silverman wrote.
Etsy is the main source of income for Boyd, who operates a shop via the online retailer featuring homemade graphic T-shirts and other "niche" items that Boyd says are "geared towards people who are members of the queer and trans community, and who are also into punk rock and metal."
Demands listed in the petition include canceling the fee increases passed onto sellers; creating a comprehensive plan to crack down on "reseller" shops (people selling mass-produced goods that they have not designed themselves); improve and expedite the support systems for sellers who have had their business disrupted by Etsy's automated tools; end the "Star Seller" program that Etsy uses to rate sellers; and to let sellers opt out of offsite ads for their products.
Boyd said many sellers felt like they weren't given a fair way to give feedback on the sudden fee-hike announcement, which marks the first increase since 2018. While the other demands in the petition are issues Boyd said have been brewing for a while, "I think for a lot of us it was that 30% increase [to fees] that really lit the match," Boyd added.
"The strike officially is meant to go from April 11, today, through April 18," Boyd told CNN Business. "But people are being encouraged to participate for as much time as they feel like they can, and no one's being shamed if they can't do the whole week."
With sellers spread out across the country, Boyd said organizers are using a slew of tech tools to rally together and support each other — including Reddit channels, Discord chats, and Instagram.
Raina Moskowitz, the chief operating officer for Etsy, told CNN Business in a statement via email on Monday that "sellers' success is a top priority for Etsy."
"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," the statement added. "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."
The seller strike on Etsy notably comes amid a wave of workplace activism seen at a slew of major companies over the past year -- from Starbucks to Amazon. Earlier this month, Amazon workers in Staten Island, New York, voted to form the e-commerce giant's first-ever US labor union in a landmark election. Amazon has since filed an appeal, calling for a do-over of the entire vote.
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