DOCUMENT  0234-59

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[GENTE DE LA SEMANA, Vol. 1, Havana, January 5, 1958, No. 1, American Edition]


Page 59
PHOTO CAPTION - Eusebio Mujal, top leader of Cuban's Labor movement reads workers claims in an assembly.
                                    In the photo: Labor Minister Suarez Rivas, and U.S. Embassy Labor Attache.


August 12, 1933, the day that the dictatorial regime of president Gerardo Machado was overthrown, is a decisive date in Cuba's labor movement.  Prior to that time social gains had been small and the labor movement was limited.  After that, the labor picture became brighter.

Until that historic day 24 years ago, the few legal labor organizations were reformist in character and almost all of them were forced to conform to government regulations in order to survive.  Only in the darkness secrecy did the classisist and revolutionary labor groups make their initial appearance.

After this date, the Secretariat of Labor (today known as the Labor Ministry) came into being, a limit on the number of working hours was enforced, legislation was passed for the establishment of labor and management groups, the protection of the worker was guaranteed and the old law requiring payment of salaries in cash was reenacted.

The political-revolutionary strike of March, 1935, opened the door for repressive measures features by the banning of labor unions.  But the seed of struggle and progress and the fruit of social advancement had become a part of the Cuban coincience and a short while later the legalized unions again took their rightful place on the nation's political, social and economic scene.


The Cuban Workers Confederation (CTC) is the only central union now in existence in Cuba.  It is remarkably strong and is characterized by a keen sense of responsibility and the high respect with which it is regarded both inside and outside the country.  The CTC was created in January of 1939 after Cuban labor delegates of varying ideological groups had agreed months before at an international labor congress in Mexico to unify the nation's labor movement.

(Prior to the CTC was another central union, the National Workers' Confederation of Cuba (CNOC), which

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PHOTO CAPTION - Workers of Unions demostrates on C.T.C. rally.

was founded in 1925 b y anarchistic labor leaders and which worked underground until 1935).

The CTC was officially recognized in 1943 by presidential decree signed b y then President of Cuba, Gen Fulgencio Batista Zaldivar, on April 7.  At that time it consisted of nine national industries federations made up of a few hundreds unions.  Today it consists of 33 federations with a membership of 1522 unions composed of 1,214,271 workers.

From 1939 to 1947, the CTC was influenced notably by Communist union leaders, despite the fact that the Reds were a minority.  In 1947, however, at the historic fth CTC Congress, the Communists were expelled and have since been under constant union attack.  The principal Communist labor leader was Lazaro Pena Gonzalez, today living outside the country and without an appreciable following among the Cuban citizenry.

The international labor groups of which the CTC is an affiliate also have strongly anti-Communist records, among them being the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and the Regional Interamerican Workers Organization (ORIT).


The Cuban Communist Party was founded secretly in 1925.  It was legalized in 1938, and in 1953 was outlawed.

Before 1933 it had very few members.  After the revolutionary upheavels of that year and following its old tactic of hiding behind popular mass movements, it started to grow, gaining strength by heading all drives for social and labor improvements.  These improvements were later incorporated into the new 1940 Constitution and in labor legislation passed since that date.

In its period of greatest strength, Communism in Cuba controlled one newspaper, "Noticias de Hoy", and a radio station, "Mil Diez", as well as assemblies in 126 municipalities of the Republic.  It was also robust enough to elect senators and representatives and win two mayoral posts (Yaguajay and Manzanillo) as well as numerous councilman's posts.  Its maximum voting strength through out Cuba at one time reached 152,000 voters.

From the foundation of the CTC in 1939 to the middle of 1947, the Communist leaders controlled the national labor movement.  But its ambitions, schisms and dictatorial techniques lead to a mass rebellion in that year, in which the Communist hierarchy was expelled from the CTC and labor leaders of national and democratic ideals elevated to take their places.

Today the Communists have gone underground, their strength decimated.  But they lose no opportunity to try to infiltrate and agitate te nation's working class, its students and its intellectuals.


Chapter Four of the Cuban Constitution recognizes "the inalienable right of the individual to work" and that the state will use all resources within its power to provide work for those without it".

 In this way the Cuban Magna Carta guarantees the salary, or the minimum wage as regulated periodically

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PHOTO CAPTION - Vicente Rubiera, Telephone Worker's leader.
PHOTO CAPTION - Eusebio Mujal Barniol, Secretary General of Cuban C.T.C. addressing a meeting.

by management-labor groups; the sanctity of the minimum wage; the equal salary for equal work; the invalidity of payment by voucher, chits, merchandise or any other monetary substitute; payment of labor by the week; social security to provide for layoffs, old age, etc.; an eight-hour maximum work day and a 44-hour work week for 48 hours pay, and the illegality of child labor under 14 years.

All established by the Cuban Constitution is payment of one month's vacation for 11 months work in a year's period; the payment of salary for holidays or national days of mourning; the rights of working mothers; the free organization of final dissolution of labor unions until a definite decision on each individual case has been handled down by the courts; the regulation and fulfillment of collective work contracts and the preponderant participation of the native Cuban in employment an salary scales.

Discrimination of all types is prohibited; the creation of cooperatives is favored, and no one may be fired from a job without the prior notice provided by law.

The obligation of the state to provide low cost housing for workers has been fixed constitutionally, as have the conditions which must be observed by all shops, factories and other work centers, te lending of social aid and charity to poor families, as well as the regulation of the transfer of factories and shops to avoid the payment of salaries and work levels.  Also employer-worker commissions have been established to help solve labor disputes.

Furthermore all Cubans, whether they be workers or not, have the free right of assembly and movement, free expression of thought and respect for their home and correspondence, etc.

All these rights are respected in the present day except during those periods (as specified in the Constitution) when constitutional guarantees are suspended.  Also respected is the worker's right to strike and the employers' right to work stoppages.

A word about strikes: since 1952 until the present time, the CTC has organized, directed and won several strike movements.  Among these have been the strike for the payment of "differential" pay (for sugar workers) in late 1955, the strike on the Ferrocarriles Consolidados, the Hatuey Brewery strike in Cotorro (Havana), as well as tobacco, port, textile and transport strikes.  In all, the CTC has directed over 100 strikes in the past five years, all of which have been approved by the majority of votes or by unanimous agreement of the responsible parties.

There have been violent strikes, resulting in the intervention of the authorities.  In the bank strike of September 1955 and the electric strike of May 1957, both declared illegal by the government and subsequently quelled by the authorities, it should be noted that both unions involved rejected the strike movement.  In the bank strike the vote was 14 against a work stoppage and three in favor in the National Bank Workers Federation of Cuba, and 62 opposed and one in favor in the CTC.  The union directors who disobeyed the agreement and initiated the strike were cited for insubordination to union authority and punished by the CTC through regular union channels.  The same happened in the case of the electric strike.

The first international strike, in which Cuban workers, represented by the CTC, showed their solidarity with American workers, represented by the AFL and the CIO, should not go unnoticed here.  It was an outstanding success.  It occurred in 1955 when Cuban workers refused to load crude sugar in Cayo Juan Claro (Puerto Padre) for sugar refineries in the southern U.S. on the grounds that the refinery owners did not want to pay Southern Negroes the same salaries as those paid in northern refineries.  The Cubans refused to ship the raw sugar until they were sure that their

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PHOTO CAPTION - Prisciliano Falcon Sanu, leader of Cuba's F.N.T.A., largest Cuban Union.

North American brothers had won their wage demands from the refinery bosses.

All along, the United States labor organization, the AFL-CIO, has maintained and still maintains its close ties with Cuban labor, not only to provide mutual support in the common fight against Communism and for a higher standard of living for labor, but as in the case of the CTC and FNTA leaders in 1955 when Cuba was seeking a sugar quota in the U.S. market.  On that occacion the U.S. labor chief-tans greatly helped the Cuban labor group achieve its goal.


Sugar is Cuba's prime wealth.  Exports of this commodity and its sale abroad provide a larger percentage of the nation's income than any other single commodity.  The price per pound of sugar and the volume of the sugar harvest are the two economic factors with the greatest bearing on the nation's political, social and economic situation.

Of the island's labor force, estimated at 2,059,659 persons in the 1953 census, the National Sugar Workers Federation (FNTA) has calculated that more than 500,000 workers depend on the sugar industry for their livelihood.  For this reason, among others, it is called the "leading industry" of Cuba.

In 1952, the revolutionary government of General Batista faced an anarchic sugar harvest which produced over seven million tons of the product, a record figure in Cuba.  There were no markets in which to sell it.  The government, in order to avoid the imposition of rigid controls the following year, set aside 1,752,000 tons for sale over a five-year period.  Before taking this stop, however, the government consulted the Cuban labor movement in the form of the CTC and the FNTA, as well as the sugar owners, the "hacendados" and "colonos".

The labor movement of the sugar industry has been invited by the government to participate –and has participated– in various international sugar discussions with the United States and other nations on the American Market and the World Sugar Agreement.

In regard to salaries, the Cuban workers sugar have achieved a wage scale which fluctuates with world sugar prices.  For instance, in 1953 and 1955, when sugar prices dropped on the world market, the workers suffered two salary cuts which totally approximately 14 percent.  It is curious to note that the Communists and political groups which opposed the CTC termed the Cuban labor leaders "cowards" for accepting these cuts.  However, in 1957 when the national labor movement demanded the restitution of the high salaries, due to the high price of sugar at the time, the aforementioned critics refused to recognize the union victory.  This restoration of salary, together with the increase in the sugar harvest for this year –from 4,600,000 tons to 5,500,000 tons– means an increase of more than $80 million in salaries for sugar workers over 1956.

The shipments of bulk sugar have been planned for some time in Cuba.  Mill owners wished to do it to cut down on workers' salaries.  But the CTC, the FNTA and the National Maritime Workers' Federation (FOMN), in a hard-fought battle, succeeded in changing the owners point of view and in securing a presidential decree. –Decree number 738 of 1955– which authorized the shipments but without effecting the number of workers at the mills. Another union triumph was won with the conversion of mechanization into a friend, and not an enemy, of the worker.

For many years, Cuba's sugar workers have worked to win representation in the Cuban Sugar Stabilization Institute (ICEA), the official regulating body for the industry managed and staffed by mill owners (both "hacendados" and "colonos") and government representatives.  The workers' desires were finally realized this year, by official decree and the leader of the FNTA, Prisciliano Falcon, today occupies a place on the ICEA.

The Supreme Court has adjuged "super production" of sugar (indemnification for mechanization) unconstitutional.  Nevertheless, by employer-worker agreement backed by the government, it is still paid.

The sugar "differential" (indemnification at the end of the year if the price of sugar rises in relation to the price at harvest time) has not only been respected from 1952 to the present but in 1955, when such a differential was not warrented, the government through various financial maneuvers in the sale of sugar futures, permitted the distribution of more than $10 million among the sugar workers as a "prefabricated differential".

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PHOTO CAPTION - Cuba's CTC Palace.  Here resides the HQ of all Cuban Unions.


Since the fall of the regime of Gerardo Machado in 1933, the salary level and living conditions of the Cuban working man has been on the rise.  The revolution of March 10, 1952, reaffirmed these  "social conquests" the very day that it took over the nation and offered to widen them.  The result was that the CTC, which had called a general strike to protest the revolutionary take-over, canceled its strike and offered inmediate [immediate] cooperation with the new government.  From that movement onward the labor organization has maintained respectful and harmonious relations with the government in what has been a tacit "non-aggresion pact".

In the sugar industry alone, the most important in the nation, both the top executives as well as the workers have recognized the policy of President Batista during the five year period in which he has governed the nation.  Recognition of the President's policies and regime was affirmed at the large banquet for the President in Havana's "Centro Gallego" in November 1956, and in the visit to the Presidential Palace after the congratulatory parade following the terrorist assault on the palace on March 13 of this year.  Other segments of the nation's social and economic life have also granted their fullest backing to the Batista program for social and economic welfare.

Workers enjoy full representation on the Consultative Board, the legislative body created as a consequence of the Revolution of March 10, and help promote indemnification laws for their retirement funds and create social security laws for the construction livestock and leather industries, etc.

The obligatory union dues, the basis of the economic support of Cuba's labor movement, were passed into law in 1955.  This has given the Cuban workers' movement its full independence, has resulted in the creation of a modern publicity network of presses and radio and TV stations, has helped form free international labor missions to work for increases in salary levels and living standards in undeveloped countries –through the CIOSL and ORIT– and the endowment of buildings, furnishings, clinics, ambulances and other equipment to individual unions.

Labor congresses and assemblies have been held in large numbers in recent years.  The CTC has received its share of praise and complaints at these events, which have been attended y government groups (Jose Perez Gonzalez, Julian Sotolongo, Andres Soberon, Mercedes Chirino, etc.)  And well-known opposition groups (Conrado Bequer, Conrado Rodriguez, Rodrigo Lominchar, Pablo Balbuena, Angel Cofino, Vicente Rubiera, Jorge Cruz, Antonio Morejon, Jose Lemus, Calixto Sanchez, who died later in a revolutionary action, and others.

The workers' movement has gained both respect and respectability, as well as the public recognition from President Batista, for the program of political independence followed by the CTC.  This is made possible by the fact that

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PHOTO CAPTION - Jose Perez Gonzalez
PHOTO CAPTION - Mercedes Chirino
PHOTO CAPTION - Julian Sotolongo

some 70 percent of the workers have so requested at labor congresses and assemblies.  The
remaining 30 percent still retains ideological ties with either the government coalition parities or parites of the opposition on roughly an equal 15 percent basis.  The political independence of the 70 percent who do not form strong attachments to either political faction is guided by the National Workers' Union (UNO) which is directed by the present secretary general of the CTC, Eusebio Mujel Barniol, assisted by Facundo Pomar Soler, Jesus Artigas Carbonel, Javier Bolanos, Sergio Pons and others.

As a logical result of the respect accorded it by the government, the CTC for its part recognizes and lauds the attitude of President Batista in not interfering or trying to dominate the political independence which has done so much to make the Cuban labor movement great.  It is interesting  also to note that many of those who now make up the leadership of the Nation Workers' Union were formerly members of the parties which made up government prior to March 10, 1952.  Following the ascendence of the new regime, these labor leaders retired from party politics to dedicate themselves exclusively to labor activities.

All attempts by non-organized labor elements to stir up strikes have failed because the rank and file has recognized them for what they are – persons seaking [seeking] to further their own political aspirations who are not in accord with the CTC policy of "keeping politics out of union activity".  In this matter the general strike called by Fidel Castro Ruz, the insurgent hiding out in the Sierra Maestra, failed.  And in a similar manner the worker's strike called last December by the University Students Federation (FEU) also failed.  Another attempt to tie up the nation which failed to materialize was that called for August 5 by oppositionists and underground groups organized by the Cuban Communist Party (the outlawed "Partido Socialista Popular").  In all instances, the CTC has unmasked the political motivations of these movements through its wide newspaper coverage and has alerted its membership to their daughter.

Last August 12, the prime minister gathered all the main directors of the industrial, commercial, banking and working groups in the Presidential Palace to congratulate them for having refused aid to their strike movement which had called upon "terrorists", insurrectionalists and Communists" the week before.  The strikes had termed their action "a passport to chaos".  The prime minister emphasized in this talk with the industry and labor leaders that the government was prepared to facilitate "guarantees and security" for all, but in exchange for good sense on their part.  The group agreed unanimously to condemn the action of the strikers and align themselves on the side of order, peace and national prosperity.

The outstanding labor leader present, Eusebio Mujal Barniol, secretary general of the CTC, stated on that occasion that any attempt at violence which tended to create anarchy in the country would men the fall of the national economy, the scaring off of investors, the tightening up and hiding of money and the loss of labor gains.

In this regard, the Cuban working class has stated through its congresses the following principles:
      The peaceful solution of national problems.
      The favoring of investments, domestic and foreign, to create new jobs for labor.
      A fight without quarter against Communist infiltration.
      Eradication of politics among unions.
      Harmonic relations between the government capital and labor.
      Repudiation of terrorism.

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