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Maker: Rupert García; Inkworks Press
Date Made: 1977
Place Made: United States: California, Berkeley
Measurements: 51 cm x 38 cm; 20 1/16 in x 14 15/16 in
Main Subject: Labor; Chicano/Latino
Materials: paper (fiber product); wrapped, corners
5th Annual Meeting April 28-May 1,'77 UC Berkeley, CA National Assoc. of Chicano Social Scientists Chicano Research as A Catalyst for Social Change Emma Tenayucca Texas Pecan Strike Leader '38 Contact Nacss c/o Chicano Studies UC Berkeley, CA. 94720 Inkworks Labor Donated Rupert garcia '77
Acquisition Number: 1994-075
Emma Tenayucca was born in 1916, in San Antonio, Texas. At sixteen she took part in the Fink Cigar Strike, and in her early twenties she was a key force in the Pecan Shellers' strike, both in Texas. In 1936, pecan shellers worked in sweatshops, earning from 5¢ to 6¢ a pound. Conditions forced workers to organize. When management cut rates by 1¢ a pound, thousands of shellers walked off their jobs on February 1, 1938, at the peak of the pecan shelling season. Over 1000 pickets were arrested, and tear gas was repeatedly used to disperse the crowds. Emma Tenayucca worked for the Workers Alliance, organizing the unemployed. A member of the Communist Party, she led demonstrations attracting 10,000 participants. Tenayucca was called "La Pasionaria" by her supporters (after Dolores Ibarrui, communist leader of the Spanish Civil War). A power struggle over control of the strike developed between Tenayucca and the CIO's United Cannery, Agricultural, Packing, and Allied Workers of America (UCAPAWA). To remove charges of communist influence, she was forced to resign her leadership role on the second day of the strike, although the workers subsequently voted her honorary strike leader. The Catholic Church, the Mexican Chamber of Commerce, and the League of United Latin American Citizens refused to support the pecan strike. Strikers were beaten and Mexicans were forced to become scabs under the threat of deportation. A soup kitchen providing free food to strikers was closed due to alleged health violations. After 37 days, the parties submitted to arbitration, and as a result the owners were required to pay the minimum wage of 25¢ an hour. The victory was short lived, however, as owners soon replaced workers with machinery. The U.S. government black-listed Tenayucca for her membership in the Communist Party, making it impossible for her to find work. Ironically, she supported herself by sewing military uniforms for soldiers during World War II.
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