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 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
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
Unpaid apprentices and honorary employees
Regulations for labor unions and
Law (Decree 778, 1938) establishing immovable
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
Sunday a day of rest for all enterprises
(includingnewspaper and radio
Rest or vacation: one month per year, full
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
Aviation workers 77 hours per month on
Summer benefit for office and store
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
Required labor union and professional college
The homestead or family birthright not to be
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
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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