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Pre-Castro Legal System in Cuba

Law in Cuba before 1959

From the 1965 book Album Azul de Cuba


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 trends.


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 Dispositions

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 48-hour week.

Unpaid apprentices and honorary employees forbidden.

Regulations for labor unions and syndicates.

Law (Decree 778, 1938) establishing immovable employment regulations.

Regulations for contract labor.

Establishment of Advisory Labor Council.

Minimum Wage Commission settling disputes onjust compensation when asked to arbitrate.

Women barred from certain employments, in othersequal working conditions and salary as men.

Sunday a day of rest for all enterprises (includingnewspaper and radio production).

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 on duty.

Summer benefit for office and store employees, etc.

One day off extra per week during 3 months. Nosalary or wage reduction.

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 work.

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 Laws


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 employees.


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 exile

by Aurelio Garcia Dulzaides in Miami Florida in 1965.

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