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Chamber of Commerce

55 St Paul St
Rochester, NY 14604, US

Category: Labor Struggles

Used in the following map:

Rochester Labor History eMap

The Rochester Chamber of Commerce, organized in 1887, moved into this building which George Eastman had constructed for it in 1917. Although generally at odds, the Chamber and Rochester’s labor community collaborated in fighting chain stores during the Depression.
In early 1930 the Central Labor Council passed a resolution “That the so-called chain stores, doing business with the backing of outside capital, and with their profits going to those who have no interest in this locality other than to take profits from it to be expended elsewhere, are a menace to the best interests of our people.” The Council called on “the Retail Merchants’ Council of the Rochester Chamber of Commerce, the Rochester Retail Grocers’ Assoc, and kindred organizations join ... in a crusade against chain stores, as detrimental to the welfare of our home city.”Anticipating today’s anti-Walmart campaign, the Council argued that while theoretically money-savers, “inasmuch as by buying in large quantities and having fewer employees, they are in a position to sell goods at a less figure than an individual store,” chain stores are not “OF, FOR or BY the community” and noting that “the employees of all chain stores work for the lowest possible wage, their hours being long and are mere puppets in the hands of the local manager.
”Rochester was the first eastern city to join this crusade, which quickly spread to hundreds of towns across America. Soon Rochester’s labor paper carried full page ads, castigating chain stores and extolling independent merchants who had banded together as the Rochester Civic Defense League. This crusade continued for several years, until labor turned its energies to organizing under the National Recovery Act.