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Chain Stores

In early 1930 the Central Trades & Labor Council (CTLC) 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,” and appointed a committee to cooperate with other organizations and the labor newspaper in calling attention of the public to the evils of the chain store. The CTLC called on “the Retail Merchants’ Council of the Rochester Chamber of Commerce, the Rochester Retail Grocers’ Association, and kindred organizations to join in a crusade against chain stores, as detrimental to the welfare of our home city.”

In strikingly familiar language, the editor of the Council’s newspaper noted that “Theoretically chain stores are 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. We realize that the so-called opportunity to the buyers is an attraction that makes a strong appeal especially to the thrifty. But a chain store is not OF, FOR or BY the community. In practically every case it is a source of drainage of the citizens’ money to be sent away to another city. It is a notorious fact 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. The crusade continued for several years, but labor interest waned as the CTLC turned its energies to implementing the National Recovery Act through organizing campaigns and efforts to negotiate and enforce industrial codes.