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The 1938 San Antonio Pecan Shellers Strike

Document 6

S.A. Strikers Tell Police Beatings

       A striking pecan sheller testified before the Texas Industrial Commission Tuesday that he was one of a group of pickets lined up before a factory by San Antonio police and made the target of a tear gas barrage. . . .  Miss Morena . . . told of being arrested for carrying a strike sign, of being hit in the stomach with a club by police.  Miss Hernandez told the commission: "I was carrying a picket sign which said that the pecan plant was unfair to workers." About 15 strikers were in line, she testified, and police shot tear gas at them . . .  Miguel Robles said he was put in jail for carrying a picket sign, and had been beaten by four or five policemen while walking in front of a plant.

       San Antonio pecan shellers are not paid a wage sufficient to permit them to live decently, Pablo A. Meza, . . . a director of the Mexican chamber of commerce, told the commission.  "Are workers paid sufficient wages to live decently?" Looney asked.  "It is a known fact that they are not. . .  They are not living, they are just existing on what they are getting . . . .  As to living conditions," Meza declared, "that of pecan workers compares very poorly with the average Mexican workers. Their sanitary and housing conditions are deplorable. . . ."

       Chief of Police Owen Kilday, openly hostile to the commission, declared no strike existed and that the use of tear gas on pickets would continue.  The police chief, under questioning, said the gas would be used "when crowds congregate and police think they are liable to cause a disturbance."  Taking up the question of whether a strike exists, Looney asked:  "Is there a strike among pecan shellers?"  The police chief said flatly:  "There is not."  Kilday . . . asserted no peaceful picketing would be permitted where a minority is striking and he would enforce his own opinion on the matter.  Kilday testified the strikers were not Communists but the leaders were . . . .

-- "S.A. Strikers Tell Police Beatings," San Antonio Light, 15 February 1938

11. Describe the testimony of the pecan shellers.

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12.  What did the representative from the Mexican Chamber of Commerce tell the Commission?

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13.  How did the Police Chief express his hostility toward the strikers in his testimony?

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