The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 69, July 1965 - April, 1966 Page: 55
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The Pecan Shellers of San Antonio
an agricultural product, and that all of Texas was in the "area
of production for pecans" and therefore exempt from the new
law. The Wage and Hour Division of the United States Depart-
ment of Labor defined "area of production" as the handling of
products on the farms where they were grown.38
Rather than meet the minimum pay standard of twenty-five
cents an hour as required by the act, the pecan shelling industry
in San Antonio closed its doors. The companies were not ad-
versely affected by the shutdown because they had worked at a
high level during the summer of 1938 and had stored up a large
quantity of shelled pecans. The only immediate effect was on the
workers who were laid off.
In December, the Southern Pecan Shelling Company and the
CIO jointly applied for a temporary exemption from the min-
imum wage provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act, their
grounds being that in order to pay twenty-five cents an hour,
machines would have to be installed to increase plant efficiency.
Therefore, the entire processing operation would have to be
learned by the employees.
The union's cooperation with Seligmann was probably founded
on a fear that the plants would not reopen if they were forced to
pay the new minimum, and on the fact that the union had just
concluded a long battle with the companies and was anxious to
get its members back to work. The union was, however, definitely
in favor of the Fair Labor Standards Act, and made it clear that
it would support enforcement of the minimum wage if an investi-
gation showed that the training period was not actually needed.
On December 19, 1938, the Wage and Hour Division opened
a hearing on the petition for exemption in San Antonio. The
questions to be decided were whether an extended training period
was needed to develop the skills of the shellers, and whether a
refusal to grant an exemption during that period would lessen
Testimony was heard from the major operators in San Antonio
who argued for the exemption. H. A. Wittliff of the Champion
Pecan Machine Company said that a minimum of ten weeks
would be needed to install the necessary machinery and to train
""Menefee and Cassmore, Pecan Shellers of San Antonio, 19.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 69, July 1965 - April, 1966, periodical, 1966; Austin, Texas. (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117144/m1/73/: accessed May 24, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.