Etsy’s Anemic Response to the Strike Inspired Us to Organize the Indie Sellers Guild
We organized a historic sellers strike in response to Etsy’s exploitative policies
The Etsy Strike of April 11-18, 2022 was an important moment in the history of the handmade marketplace experiment. In just a couple weeks of organizing, nearly 30,000 sellers joined together and collectively put our shops on “vacation mode,” temporarily removing listings from the platform and denying ourselves livelihood-supporting sales in a weeklong protest of Etsy’s exploitative policies. Hundreds of media articles interviewed sellers and published our concerns across the globe. A petition listing our strike demands received over 85,000 signatures.
During the strike, we sent an official letter with the demands and the petition signatures to Etsy corporate officers and board members as the organizers of the strike, in an attempt to engage directly with the company. A week after the strike, we enacted a second letter-writing campaign.
Disappointingly, the company did not reply to either of our efforts to reach them, failing to provide even the courtesy of acknowledging receipt of our letters. Etsy’s refusal to provide even the basic dignity of a bland auto-reply would have been almost puzzling while in the midst of the media maelstrom whipping outside – but Etsy’s actions that week spoke louder than its (lack of) words in its comments to investors and shareholders.
The only official statements Etsy made about the strike were sent to everyone but us striking sellers. Throughout the strike Etsy provided the same prepared statement to all media inquiries, claiming that the money Etsy took from sellers with its fee increase would be used to improve seller conditions. It was a logic time-loop – Etsy was trying to spin the very policies that inspired the strike as addressing the strikers’ demands – and nobody was buying it.
A week after the strike, Etsy published an official announcement on its Etsy Forum (with comments disabled), “Delivering Value to Etsy Sellers.” Apropos to nothing and seemingly similar to their fee increase announcement, it might have seemed to come from left field had it not been for the timing. The announcement did not mention or address the strike, but instead gave sellers words of reassurance that Etsy cared about them. Meanwhile, during the same week, their actions and executive comments to the business elite proved anything but.
In his executive bubble in New York, one day into the strike CEO Josh Silverman couldn’t help commenting on the record at a Wall Street Journal event, revealing his strategy to have Etsy compete with Amazon. On the same day, he denigrated sellers in an interview: “Each of our sellers is a blade of grass in a tornado. They’re someone you haven’t heard of.” It’s the kind of tone-deaf comment we’d expect to hear from an out-of-touch CEO sitting high in his tower behind security gates, hoping the angry populace will go away and taking whispered advice from “crisis communications” experts.
A few weeks after the strike, the topic still wouldn’t go away. At its May 8th quarterly shareholder meeting, Etsy had to answer for the strike to Wall Street investors. In the meeting, Etsy’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Rachel Glaser responded that when the fee change went into effect last month, fewer than 1% of sellers went into “temporary vacation mode,” active listings dipped less than 1% during the week and returned to the prior level when the week was over. “Based on past experience and significant research leading up to the change, this was all within our expectations,” she said.
But as one commenter to the linked business article wrote, “1%. Meh. But is it really? It was ‘significant’ enough to address it’s ‘insignificance’.” The fact that the strike had such heavy media coverage, that investors are demanding answers, tells us that the strike struck a chord. Unions are on the rise.
We think 1% is a BIG response organized in only a couple weeks – and as it turns out, ignoring us isn’t gonna work. We’re fired up and more organized than ever. Since the strike, we’ve been working with a team of over 800 engaged Etsy shops on our Discord server towards the creation of a formal organization of independent sellers.
Etsy is not listening to the valid and urgent concerns of sellers, and our creative handmade goods, curated vintage finds, and craft supplies provide the majority of the company’s unique value – not widely-available Amazon-style dropshipped knock-offs. We cannot entrust our livelihoods with a company who won’t even acknowledge receipt of our concerns.
We’ve named our organization, the Indie Sellers Guild and established a new website: https://indiesellersguild.org and are working hard on getting the organization formally launched.
We are recruiting volunteers to fill a variety of positions as we get ready to launch. JOIN US via our Reddit or Discord organizing channels to help out.