On September 5, merchants using the Etsy platform will inaugurate a “ independent sellers guild », an association whose missions are comparable to those of a trade union without having the legal structure. Behind this grouping, unprecedented for this American site selling handicrafts and second-hand items: a hard core of sellers unhappy with the rules governing their activity on the platform.
The latter have already led a first battle last April, claiming to have led 30,000 sellers to strike. The mobilization pushed Etsy, a few weeks later, to announce a package of reformsmost of which were among their demands, such as lowering the requirements for entering the “star sellers” program, such as the number of recent sales or the average rating given by customers.
Their main objective, explained on their website already online: defend the interests of independent sellers who are essential to the functioning of this market place, which is profitable, growingand achieves more than two billion euros in annual turnover.
Fight against “Amazonification”
Among the priority projects of this new kind of union, presented to the American media The Verge : the lowering of commissions charged by Etsy and the exclusion of merchants who practice dropshipping, an activity theoretically prohibited by the platform, but tolerated in practice, according to the activists. This technique consists in selling the articles of other merchants by playing the dematerialized intermediaries, without making stock. The guild also intends to become a place for sharing knowledge, through blogs, a Reddit forum and a Discord messaging system, where sellers would exchange their best practices and training in new media.
Even before being officially launched, the organization already has 2,000 registered members. A modest figure, however, compared to the 7.7 million merchants claimed by Etsy. Any trader with an account on the platform can register, regardless of their country of origin, provided they speak English. For the moment, the organizers of the guild do not expect membership fees. To access the voting rights that will elect the members of the next office, each new member will however have to prove to the guild his status as a seller, with photos attesting that his activity is linked to the creation of crafts or the resale of second hand, not dropshipping.
In his manifestothe guild does not exclude, moreover, to defend the sellers of other marketplaces, and declares to want to fight against the “amazonification” online marketplaces.
Very few Etsy sellers actually earn their living thanks to the site: in France, for example, only 1% of sellers earn more than the minimum wage, according to research by sociologist Anne Jourdain, mentioned in a research paper entitled “Make your passion a profession”. Among the sellers, who are overwhelmingly women, we find in particular “mompreneurs” (contraction of “mother” and “entrepreneur” in English), mothers who decide to give up their salaried activity and become self-employed, open a small online store to better reconcile private and family life.
Etsy traders join the list of other self-employed workers who have been able to mobilize collectively in France, England or the United States, such as independent VTC drivers officiating for Uber or Deliveroo deliverers.