Pre-Castro Legal System in Cuba
Law in Cuba before 1959
From the 1965 book Album Azul de
The Cuban Constitution
The 1940 Cuban Constitution, Article I,
defined its purpose of assuring besides liberty "social justice and public welfare". In the part relating to
labor it declared work one of the inalienable rights of man, it being the duty of the State to assure work
available to all. Articles 60 to 85, not found in other Constitutions, establish the basic rights of social
justice, working rights and social benefits. Actually this only formulated laws which had already been decreed
by provisional governments arising from the revolution against the Machado government, establishing judicial
norms which were given greater legal force and also pointing out new social and political
As special laws meant to bring about
social justice and satisfy demands for advancements the following were already in force: The law establishing a
State right to intervene in any private enterprise when necessary to assure compliance with laws regulating
employment. This was brought into effect in 1933 but a year before the Nationalization Labor Law established a
minimum of 50% native employees. Any position thence-forth becoming vacant which had been occupied by a
foreigner had to be filled by a native.
The Cuban Juridical Labor
Eight-hour working day, approved in
1933. For those under 18, six-hour day.Every
8-hour working day — two hours off interval. The Constitutional 44-hour working week established pay for the
Unpaid apprentices and honorary
Regulations for labor unions and
Law (Decree 778, 1938) establishing
immovable employment regulations.
Regulations for contract
Establishment of Advisory Labor
Minimum Wage Commission settling
disputes onjust compensation when asked to
Women barred from certain
employments, in othersequal working conditions
and salary as men.
Sunday a day of rest for all
enterprises (includingnewspaper and radio
Rest or vacation: one month per
year, full salary. Obligatory.
Entitled to nine days sick leave
with pay. Minimum rates established for country and city workers.
Work accident indemnification law,
including factory; and land workers.
Transport workers limited to
36-hour week, 48 hours pay.
Aviation workers 77 hours per month
Summer benefit for office and store
One day off extra per week during 3
months. Nosalary or wage
Labor Exchange office set up in
each locality where workers could register and employers consult rosters.
Numerous regulations concerning
cleanliness at places of work.
The Constitution itself
detailed the following social gains:
Committees of employers and
employees (known as Comisiones Paritarias) to settle all conflicts.
Equal salaries for equal
Required labor union and
professional college membership.
The homestead or family birthright
not to be embargoed.
Medical attention and
hospitalization free for all people in humble circumstances.
Rights recognized the working class
did not exclude them from others emanating from social justice.
In social gains note every pregnant
working woman was entitled to one and a half months pre-natal and one and a half months post-natal compulsory
rest, with full pay, medical and hospital expenses. The benefit was also extended to wives of laborers, even if
they were housewives, provided the husband's employer contributed to the Maternidad Obrera fund. Boards of
Health and Maternity were established and Working Women's Maternity Hospitals in the larger cities and in each
case the mother received a cash gift.
In collective labor contracts many
other benefits were established for workers and although not originating in the law of the country, their
permanency was determined by law. Thus all firms stemming from petroleum, electricity, water, gas, textiles and
others established the six-hour working day.
Concerning insurance and old age
pensions, inability to work or years of service, it suffices to note that inCuba there was a total of 55 Funds, Social Pensions, which embraced all professions and all
branches of labor.
Salaries and wages were so satisfactory
that, for instance, in the sugar industry they were regulated strictly in accordance with fluctuations in the
price of sugar, hence, generally the highest in the country. And a technical know-how achieved by rising to
chief machinery engineer in the school of experience could often earn a Cuban one thousand pesos (on a par with
one thousand U.S. dollars) a month salary.
Cuban Social and Labor
Cuba had achieved such a high position
in social growth and legislation that it is difficult to see where it could have been improved. Social security
guaranteed the earnings and human dignity of all workers. The Cuban laborer could depend upon laws which assured
him positive benefits during his working days and a tranquil old age similar to that of government
The 1940 Constitution of Cuba could not
be classed as socialistic but did include a great many basic laws favoring the happy state towards which mankind
aims in a civilized society. The land-worker, laborer, office employee, professional, artist and all who by
their work contributed to the development of a nation had been benefited by the laws of the republic,
particularly since the democratic revolution which began in 1930. Whoever makes a comparative study must come to
the conclusion that Cuban labor laws attained much greater guarantees for the working people than those, for
example, in the United States.
Scanned from the book Album Azul de Cuba, compiled and edited in
by Aurelio Garcia Dulzaides in Miami Florida in 1965.
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