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United Labor Chest

68 E Main St
Rochester, NY 14614, US

Category: Organizations - historic

Used in the following map:

Rochester Labor History eMap

In 1919 Rochester renamed its War Chest as the Community Chest, which it launched with George Eastman as President. Headquartered at the Chamber of Commerce the Community Chest invited Rochester’s wage earners to contribute one day's pay.
It wasn’t long, however, before labor and the Community Chest were at loggerheads. In 1921 the Chest printed and distributed subscription cards without a union label and clothing workers at Hickey Freeman refused to use them. In 1923 the Chest had cards printed in union shops without any union label; again Hickey-Freeman workers returned their pledge cards.
Noting that "In every other community, the Community Chest recognized the integrity of the nationwide agreement between labor and the Community Chests," in 1943 Rochester's AFL and CIO labor councils joined to form a non-profit corporation the United Labor Chest of Monroe County. An office was opened at 68 East Main Street and the Labor Chest launched its first drive to collect funds to distribute for community and war purposes.
Forty-two community agencies offered to participate in the Labor Chest and, at the request of their workers, a number of employers included Labor Chest pledges in their payroll deduction systems. Over 5,500 individual pledges raised $83,000 and in 1944 the Labor Chest announced its second annual campaign: a principal project would be to expand child-care for parents working in war industries. The success of the United Labor Chest helped persuade the Community Chest to make peace with labor. In December 1944 four labor leaders went on the Community Chest Board and the Chest announced that "a Campaign Advisory Committee, made up of labor leaders, will be formed to assist with the solicitation in union shops in the 1945 campaign."
Both AFL and CIO leaders urged labor to support the 1945 Community Chest drive, noting labor's new involvement at all levels of the Chest. Union members were asked to identify their union affiliation on subscriber cards so that labor contributions could be properly credited.
In 1947 and again in 1948 Rochester workers donated $500,000 -- 25% of funds raised by the Community Chest drives. In 1959 the CTLC adopted a resolution to ask the Community Chest to put a full-time labor rep on its payroll and appointed a committee of five to work with the Chest’s Labor Advisory Committee to establish a Community Services Program.
The Rochester Labor Council and United Way of Greater Rochester give a Community Services Award to a union or to a union member for outstanding community involvement. Since 1999 that award has been named the Bob Flavin Community Services Award, after the late president of Communication Workers of America Local 1170.