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United Labor Chest

By May 1943 a Labor Chest committee had retained attorneys to form a non-profit corporation for the collection and distribution of funds for community and war purposes and both AFL and CIO representatives had filed a certificate to do business under the name “United Labor Chest of Monroe County.”

In August the Labor Chest met to adopt a constitution and by-laws and elect a board of directors (15 AFL, 15 CIO). This board would direct the Chest, elect officers and set up budget, allocation and campaign committees. The AFL and CIO councils then approved the constitution which stipulated that any agency to benefit from chest funds must have at least one labor-approved representative on its board of directors or budget committee. A further stipulation was that no officer of the corporation would receive a salary.

By early September the Labor Chest board had organized 17 divisions for its first fund drive, set for the week of October 18. It had established the Chest’s fiscal year, named The Genesee Valley Trust Company as depository, and formed Campaign, Budget, and Allocations committees. Accounting and financial recording systems were developed and headquarters were opened at 68 East Main Street. The first Labor Chest campaign slogan was “One Need! One Appeal! One Day’s Pay!” Pledge cards were printed and distributed and speakers made available.

A Labor Chest pamphlet urging union support for the campaign and listing agencies to receive funds noted that “Rochester is the only city in the country where it has been necessary to establish a separate Labor Chest. In every other community, the Community Chest recognized the integrity of the nationwide agreement between labor and the Community Chests and Councils Incorporated.” For this reason the campaign was watched with interest all over the country.

In October Rochester’s Council of Social Agencies sent a letter to the allocation committee listing 42 agencies willing to participate in the Labor Chest and expressing the hope that the Labor Chest and Community Chest could work out their differences. Likewise, at the request of their workers, a number of employers included Labor Chest pledges in their payroll deduction systems. As late as January 1944 Labor Chest contributions were still coming in: approximately 5500 individual pledges. The Labor Chest dollar was divided 30% Red Cross, 30% National War Fund, 20% to 42 local welfare agencies, 10% emergency relief, 10% operating expenses and financial reserve.

In May 1944, the Labor Chest announced its second annual campaign: a principal project would be remodeling the Friendship Nursery to expand child-care for parents in war-related jobs. By September, when the United Labor Chest closed the books on its 1944 campaign, it had collected $83,000. Allocations went to the Red Cross, State War Fund, local social agencies, etc.

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.”