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Picking pecan shell fragments from pecan meats. Pho to by Ru sse l l Lee. \(Ins t itu te o f Texa n Cu ltu re That was before the pecan strike. I was never offered a job as an organizer. Dubinsky came here and hired Rebecca. They went over the workers’ heads and signed a local here, a local there, and so on. Rebecca Taylor spoke Spanish, but she was not an organizer. I went before the Labor Council here, spoke several times asking for their help [for the pecan shellers]. They did not dare speak against us, but they did not help us at all. I went lots of times with Myrle Zappone, one of the organizers for the garment workers, to the homes of Mexican women and talked to the people about joining the union. But the minute they had about 50 or 60 workers, whatever they considered enough, they called a strike. What they did they never developed leadership. In dealing with the population at that time, you had to answer more than just the economic questions. Schooling: I had visions of a huge hall on the West Side, possibly maintained by several unions pecan, laundry, ironworkers which would become a center where you would help people become citizens, where you would have classes in English. The union had to serve as a social service organization because of the conditions of the people. You had to act. You had, perhaps, to take a very sick person to the hospital. The union had to do that. It had to. When you involved someone who didn’t even know anything on a committee, just picked somebody up and you knew he’d just say, “Yes, yes,” that was Dubinsky’s idea. Dubinsky’s idea was just to grab these people and throw them into the union. One of the very first issues at the Workers Alliance here was the right of workers to organize without fear of deportation. But the pressure of economic conditions moved faster in the direction of poverty. For instance, the Finck strike and the pecan strike were not planned strikes. The two were spontaneous strikes. The Workers Alliance gathered a tremendous momentum when the workers returned from the fields, not having worked, without money and without food. The year 1938 proved to be a very disastrous year for the migratory workers. The pecan shelling industry was important to the workers here because some of them started leaving as early as March. They did some work in the Valley. Then they went to Colorado and the beet fields there. They went to Michigan and came back some time around November. Some of them would come back and sell their car and buy a piece of land. These were called surcos. They were pieces of land about 25 feet wide. So the only way you could build would be back. Nevertheless, some of them took that. Some of your houses are very nice houses. But they didn’t have any water. They had to carry it by buckets. There was a whole picture there on the West Side. I felt there was something that had to be done. Pecan Shellers THE PECAN SHELLERS strike was the culmination of organizing. What I did was help organ ize the Workers Alliance. There were some very good people in there. You had a lot of mutualistas [members of cooperative mutual aid societies]. There was a woman who was a very wonderful woman here by the name of Rodriguez, who organized la Union. The communists I think had a few people out there, and so did the socialists. I was’` aware all along that any organization, especially of the Mexican laborers in San Antonio, would be a very difficult endeavor. To succeed you never rest. Pecan shelling was an industry where you had subcontractors and you had hundreds of little shops. It was the latter part of January in 1938. I think they were paying about 5 cents or 6 cents per pound. The crackers got a bit more. What happened here was a lot of the pecan shellers were members of the Workers Alliance. The Workers Alliance at its peak had more than 10,000 members. It’s difficult for people to understand that the Workers Alliance continued, carrying grievances, meeting on Sundays. For anybody who’d been laid off, we’d go back to the WPA and back to the Relief Office here. At the same time we kept campaigns going for greater assistance. I remember some members of the Workers Alliance coming by, saying, “We’re not going into the shops.” So I went out with them. The workers just started marching out. The only thing I did was organize these committees and send them down. The first thing was to prepare for a meeting and to keep the workers out [on strike]. The person who was in charge was Donald.Henderson, and he was the founder of the United Cannery Workers [United Cannery and Agricultural Processors and Agricultural Workers of America UCAPAWA]. It was one of the CIO left-wing unions whose funds were eventually cut. The CIO put some money into organization here. They tried their best. The CIO made a real effort to organize the migrant workers of California. And they did not succeed. The only people who had organized the migrant workers were the IWW, the Wobblies. So the strike was on. But this had been preceded by many demonstrations, by a continuous appeal, mass meetings, all kinds of activities in which people participated on all labor questions. I had a woman recently come up to me she’s a member of COPS now and her father was a member of the Workers Alliance. It was a training ground. It was actually a breaking up of the type of political activity that had been a feature of the West Side. So there were quite a few struggles there. There was tremendous pressure upon the CIO to remove me as the strike leader because I was a Communist.’ 10 OCTOBER 28, 1983