Labor Organizing in San Antonio

( Left: Emma Tenayuca leading a workers Alliance Demonstration at San Antonio City Hall, 1937, Right: SAPD officers outside City Hall before they were ordered to remove worker's alliance strikes)

During the 1930s, conditions for Mexicans across the United States were bad. One thing that came out of these conditions was organizing of Mexicans throughout the U.S.. Organizing was one of few options that this group had to create a better experience for themselves. Women were very instrumental in organizing. Rodolfo Acuna believes that women were important in the 1930s in breaking the stereotype for Mexicans that they were docile and unable to be organized.

In San Antonio, women such as Emma Tenayuca organized labor movements to improve wages and working conditions for both Mexicans and Mexican Americans. Emma was a San Antonio resident and important figure in labor organizing. In an interview, she reflects on how evident the poverty and misery were in San Antonio. She aware of the injustice and therefore that is why she became involved in labor organizing. She recalls that the first time that she was exposed to the hardships that the Mexican community were experiencing was when she attended "Zacate Square" in San Antonio with her grandfather. This is a place where San Antonio's Mexican community gathered to talk about the injustices they were experiencing. In reviewing an interview with Tenayuca, she reflects that many Mexicans were deported back to Mexico during that period to stifle their activism against San Antonio-based companies. In the Finck Cigar company strike in the 1930s, police officers like police chief Owen Kilday harassed pickets and threatened women with deportation. Strikers were tear gased six different times during this strike.

One thing that encouraged organizing was the Wagner act that included Mexicans but discriminated against them because it did not include farm workers from protection. Mexicans did not benefit from the New Deal of the 1930s because it did not benefit those who were not citizens and/or agricultural workers. Labor greatly contributed to repatriation.