The Finck Cigar Company Strikes in San Antonio and the Communal Conscience of Mexican Women in Defense of their Labor Rights
This paper focuses on the social and economic conditions which kindled the collective conscience of the predominantly Mexican women working for the Finck Cigar Company in San Antonio, Texas in the 1930s, emphasizing their role in organizing and defending their labor rights.
It was the first time in San Antonio’s labor history, when a group of skilled minority women workers challenged the owner of a manufacturing plant on pay violations, unfair production quotas and unsanitary working conditions. These violations became the impetus for organizing a labor movement which was met with enthusiastic support by the low-income Mexican community concentrated on the west side of the city. Significantly, neither the movement nor the series of strikes at the Finck plant received the endorsement of city leaders and law enforcement agencies.
The crucial role minority women played in forming a union to defend their labor rights, came at the height of the Depression and New Deal politics and against the backdrop of the Official Catholic Church which claimed that every labor union was a communist union. Consequently, the first labor strike by Spanish-speaking women served as the test ground for the first grass-root activism of Emma Tenayuca who was to play a major role in the labor history of San Antonio during this period.
Keywords: Strikes, San Antonio, Texas, Mexican Women, Labor Rights, Finck Cigar Company, Catholic Church, Labor Relations, Emma Tenayuca
Professor, Sociology and Criminal Justice, University of the Incarnate Word
Library Director, Academic Support, University of the Incarnate Word