Dress designer launches internationally recognized strike against Etsy

There were times in this process I thought, there is no way this is going to happen. There are only so many hours in the day and it’s just me, standing against a multi-billion-dollar company. If I drop one ball, everything could fail; but here we are.

  • 2 years ago
  • April 14, 2022
6 min read
Kristi Cassidy's viral movement against Etsy's fee hikes took shape on internet forums such as Reddit and Discord Kristi Cassidy's viral movement against Etsy's fee hikes took shape on internet forums such as Reddit and Discord | Photo courtesy of Kristi Cassidy
Kristi Cassidy
Interview Subject
Kristi Cassidy, 39, of Westerly, Rhode Island, is one of the creators of the Etsy Strike petition, along with fellow sellers she connected with on Reddit and Discord. Kristi sews and sells gothic, Victorian wedding dresses and steampunk costumes in her shop, Auralynne.

The artist and creator is a stay-at-home mom who runs her own business and was an early adopter of Etsy, having joined the platform in 2006.

When the protest movement she began with other Etsy sellers took off, Cassidy began chronicling her thoughts and experiences on her blog, which also features the larger strike story.
Background Information
In 2005, Rob Kalin, Chris Maguire and Haim Schoppik created Etsy. It was designed to be an e-commerce platform for the makers of the world, connecting artists and creators with buyers.

According to news reports, within two years, there were nearly half a million sellers on Etsy and revenue was in the millions. It was established as a B Corporation and boasted better employment statistics than most other Silicon Valley companies. For example, over half of staff were women.

After an array of leadership change and the acquisition of numerous other companies, Etsy went public on April 16, 2015, and shed its B Corp designation. The company was valuated at $1.8B by that time.

When Etsy CEO Josh Silverman announced the 30% fee hike on Etsy sellers in February 2022 after a record-breaking year of profits for the company, sellers took to the internet to band together.

In an email to Silverman and the Etsy board, petition and strike organizer Kristi Cassidy cited the move away from handmade sellers, the flood of illicit drop-shippers, and fee increases. She said Etsy had become “a downright hostile place for authentic small businesses to operate … bringing many to the brink of financial ruin.”

WESTERLY, Rhode Island— I’m a stay-at-home mom who sells gothic, Victorian wedding dresses. Now I’m doing radio interviews with BBC and talking to national media.

It all started on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022, when Etsy announced a 30 percent fee increase on sellers, following a record-breaking year of profits. The next day, I posted on Reddit asking what would happen if sellers put their shops on vacation mode in protest.

It has been nearly two months, and today we have over 74,000 signatures and counting on a petition opposing the fee hike.

A strike is underway from April 11-18 to further protest these developments. In this moment, it all feels like a whirlwind. I haven’t fully realized what has happened because there is a constant influx of new activity every day.

One seller takes on Etsy, but an invisible enemy fights back

At the beginning of the movement, we had 100 people in a subreddit, very few of whom saw my posts because of how the Reddit algorithm works. I tried posting in r/EtsySellers, and while my posts were not being deleted, it seemed like they were being “managed” carefully; kept at zero upvotes until they disappeared.

When a post remained, specific users dogpiled it with ridicule. The comments were so horrible, I wondered: are these even real people? Did someone hire them?

It didn’t matter; there would be too many of us to be controlled. On March 1, I posted a help wanted link asking for support with planning the strike and I directed other sellers to a Discord server where we could start building a team.

Slow momentum builds into thousands of petitioners

Within a few days I met Mattie Boyd, who runs the shop Toxic Femme. Mattie would jump in as a co-leader offering help, ideas, and outreach. In a couple weeks, she found coworker.org, which would become the hosting site for our petition.

I organized an event on Friday, March 18 on the discord server where we had 20 members to share the petition.

When I arrived at the designated time to discuss the event with our community, only one person showed up: a user named Khaos. Sitting on my bed, I stared at the screen of my laptop in front of me. In the server, no one spoke. I waited alone for an hour before turning off my computer and closing it. I needed to unplug, take the night off, and read a book.

The next morning, the emotions came. I was very upset and showed my vulnerability to the group. I posted that I cannot do this alone—it’s not going to work like that. My openness became a rallying point.

Other participants came around, and we began connecting on a deeper level. We got our first 10 signatures on the petition and the user Khaos stepped in to manage the server.

We had a petition, a website, and a forum for discussion. Now we needed to reach a critical mass of people within a short period of time. I knew that this was a movement that would grow through multiplication.

The Etsy strikers achieve their big break

We experienced two big breaks. In a subreddit called r/WitchesVSPatriarchy, I discovered a community of crafty people and knew Etsy sellers would be among them. I put a call out to all “witchy Etsy sellers.” The trolls and down voters didn’t exist there, and the post achieved a 98% up-vote rate, 880 up votes, and 57,000 views.

The next big break shocked me. I created a graphic outlining Etsy’s record-breaking profits and posted in the subreddit r/latestagecapitalism. This time we achieved 21,600 up votes and a 96% up-vote rate.

The petition climbed to 1,000 signatures, then to 5,000, then kept soaring. We had gone viral. Interestingly, after the petition reached a certain size, the subreddits r/EtsySellers and r/Etsy started deleting posts having to do with the strike.

The graphic that sent the #EtsyStrike movement into viral territory | Image courtesy of Kristi Cassidy

Etsy petition and strike support sellers, artists, livelihoods

There were times in this process I thought, there is no way this is going to happen. There are only so many hours in the day and it’s just me, standing against a multi-billion-dollar company. If I drop one ball, everything could fail; but here we are.

I have been an Etsy seller since 2006. My business is successful, and I have the ability to leave the platform and market myself through social media. My sister who sells jewelry on Etsy does not have that same luxury. Most sellers are like her.

I put decades of my life into Etsy. Sellers like me grew the platform, yet shareholders profit from it. We did it because the platform had a soul in the old days.

For me, it was hard to stop believing in Etsy; to stop fighting for the promise they gave me all those years ago. But today, it feels like a giant lie. I believe their PR is just a remnant from the days when they were a B Corporation (a company that voluntarily meets the highest standards for social and environmental performance) and not a publicly traded company.

Those days are gone, and what is happening is not fair. I’m proud to be fighting on behalf of my fellow independent sellers.

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