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Etsy sellers launch weeklong strike over increased fees

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Some sellers and creators on the online marketplace Etsy are going on a weeklong strike starting today. They say the company's fees and unfair practices make staying on Etsy untenable for their businesses. And they hope their strike forces the company to address their concerns. NPR's Jaclyn Diaz has been following this story and joins us now. Hi, Jaclyn.

JACLYN DIAZ, BYLINE: Hi there.

CHANG: Hi. So let me just make sure I understand here. They're calling this a strike. But these sellers, they're not actually employees of Etsy, right?

DIAZ: Yeah, that's right. They're independent artists that use Etsy as a platform to sell their goods, which is their business. These are artists that sell anything from, say, a Victorian Gothic wedding dress to, like, stickers. And for the next week, they're putting their online shops in vacation mode and putting a message on their page that says they're on strike. But, you know, this is not a traditional strike as we know it. The sellers aren't employees, and they're not part of a union. I talked to Lori Peterson, who has a shop on Etsy.

LORI PETERSON: Technically, we are just customers of Etsy because they have a platform and we're on it. But we are also the laborers for them, and they make money directly off our labor. So that's why we're using the term strike.

CHANG: Not all the sellers on Etsy are on strike, but some of them are. What exactly are their concerns?

DIAZ: So the thing that sparked calls for a strike was Etsy saying they were going to raise transaction fees by 30%. And that's a cost that's taken out of a seller's commission from a sale. The company said that was going to start today. But also sellers want to be able to opt out of Etsy's offsite ads. And these are ads that promote a shop's listings on the internet. They're ads created by Etsy, but then they can cost sellers an additional 12% to 15% in fees. Another complaint is that sellers want Etsy to tackle resellers on the platform, and these are people who are copying other artists' work and then making money off of that.

CHANG: Well, what's been the reaction from Etsy so far to all of this?

DIAZ: So they said the fees will go toward marketing, more customer support and removing those exact listings like those resellers. But Etsy says that of their 5.3 million active sellers, the ones actually striking just make up a small portion, just about a few thousand. They said this shows that a lot of sellers are happy with the way that Etsy runs its company. And I actually spoke to one seller who is opposed to the strike. Nicole Lewis thinks sellers should do more things on their end to cut down on the impact of the fees on their businesses.

NICOLE LEWIS: If this fee increase is making you nervous, your prices are not correct. And it's not as simple as raising your prices to make up for it. What are some other changes as a seller that you can make on your end to cut down your cost of goods? Can you buy in bulk at a cheaper price per box to save X amount of money? There are so many things that sellers can be doing behind the scenes on their end that they're responsible for that can cut down these costs drastically.

DIAZ: For a lot of the sellers I spoke to, raising their prices is just not something they want to do. This is Lori Peterson again.

PETERSON: I don't want to milk my customers for as much as I can get out of them because I know I could raise my prices and I could do that. But I don't feel like - you know, I feel like I owe it to my customers to provide them a reasonable price. And I want to see my art in the world. That's what it is for me as an artist.

CHANG: What happens if this weeklong strike is over and Etsy doesn't really make any real concessions to the strikers? What's their long-term plan?

DIAZ: For now, they'll see their strike through this week, but many told me they are more than willing to go on strike again and again until their demands are met.

CHANG: That is NPR's Jaclyn Diaz. Thank you, Jaclyn.

DIAZ: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: April 12, 2022 at 11:00 PM CDT
This story describes Etsy resellers as people who are copying other artists' work. Resellers also include people who sell mass-produced items they didn't make or design.