Etsy Strike Prompts Launch of Independent Seller’s Union

Indie Sellers Guild, launched on Labor Day 2022, is a union effort for independent sellers using

By Nicoline West, Arts Writer


In February of 2022, top e-commerce site Etsy announced that transaction fees for sellers would increase from 5% to 6.5%. The 30% increase took effect in April, prompting about 17,000 sellers to strike.

While according to Reuters the strike did not have a notable impact on Etsy sales, it did spark a cultural change for independent sellers. On Sept. 5, The Indie Sellers Guild held its live virtual launch. ISG is a non-profit organization that functions like a workers union for independent artisans. Members gain voting rights, access to research and training, a directory listing and more.

The Hand of Big Business

Robyn Emery joined Etsy in 2020 selling hand-painted birdhouses. Like other malcontent creators, Emery joined April’s Etsy strike. Making any kind of money on Etsy proved to be difficult — take home pay on Emery’s sold items could be as little as $20, and raising prices to combat fees was never a viable strategy.

“I don’t think people appreciate small artisans and what we do,” Emery said. “I don’t think people appreciate it, and if I raise my rates, I’ll have an even harder time.”  In addition to other seller’s fees, Emery was automatically added to Etsy’s paid advertising program — a service she was not interested in using.

Image Courtesy of Robyn Emery

While Etsy claims to be an entrepreneur-centric platform, few have felt the love. Etsy’s earnings exploded as a result of the pandemic. The company made $1.7 billion in revenue in 2021 and reported $2.4 billion in assets. In addition, CEO Josh Silverman was awarded $40 million in compensation. 

Large companies have also used the site as a sales channel for some time now. Emery was able to link a competing seller to, a major home furnishing corporation that most recently reported $13.7 billion in revenue.

“It’s really frustrating because I put my heart into this,” Emery said. “I’m selling mine for sixty-five [dollars] and they’re selling theirs for thirty, how can I compete? I can’t.” Etsy has done little to insulate independent sellers from corporate competition.

“It’s not what they say it is, and it’s not a place for us,” Emery said.

A Union for the Modern Age

Image Courtesy of Robyn Emery

Etsy has been able to exploit the disconnected nature of independent work. The lack of support for those who have been marginalized in independent work is the hole that ISG is trying to fill as one of the first unions of its kind. Without a structured union, sellers are easily undercut by cheap-to-produce goods and major markets.

Independent work has long been a lifeline for many who struggle in the traditional workforce or require a secondary stream of income. About 79% of Esty sellers are women, and 14% are LGBTQ+. These groups are unusually represented on the site and have historically faced wage gaps and discrimination in the traditional workforce.

Although ISG is still in its infancy, it is leading a novel effort. Emery joined the organization shortly after finding out about it. “I know they’re doing a lot of things to try and help as actual artisans, I’m not really sure where they’re headed with this, but hey, I’m with them,” she said. “Why should [Etsy] make zillions of dollars off us?”


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