The cigar industry that developed in
The skilled cigarmakers, mostly Spanish, were well paid, based upon their skills and speed. They often were in charge of the all important apprenticeship system training new artisans.
Cigarmakers were paid $28.00 per 1,000 for the top perfecto brand cigars while the inexpensive cherutos cigars often commanded a price of just $8.00 per thousand in 1910. Custom jobs were only done by top artisans since the reputation of the brand was impacted by these famous customers.
The skilled cigarmakers had a great deal of economic and social power until the 1930's, for they could always be recruited by other firms. They selected their own hours and often left the factories to dine on
The top cigarmakers' wives were
rarely in the work place. This was in part the traditional role of the wife in
Management and ownership of
Spanish workers also dominated the positions of resagadores (wrapper selectors) and escogedores (packers), who played the key role of quality control of distribution and value. Each year's tobacco crop was not uniform nor was the tobacco harvest consistent.
The Spanish controlled the job of chavatero (knife sharpener) and any position in charge of the maintenance of factory equipment.
Cubans rolled most of the
cheaper cigars, often from leftover tobacco or lower quality tobacco. Cubans
did rise to higher positions and many opened smaller shops, but the ethnic
stratification of many factories was against such promotions.
By 1900 more and more women entered the cigar industry, mostly in the positions at the stripping tables, later in boxing the cigars. As second and third generation male Hispanics left the cigarmaking industry, women became an important labor source.
The development of mechanized, more inexpensive cigars clearly opened job opportunities for women. Skilled artisans would not accept such positions even in a poor economy.
Italians entered the cigarmaking industry at the lowest ladder, often working in small factories. Salaries in such jobs were insufficient for most and they found jobs in retail commerce.
Afro-Cubans, Italians, women, and African-Americans handled most of the jobs that did not relate to the manufacturing of cigars. The building maintenance jobs, the transportation and shipping jobs, and general labor jobs were usually held by Afro-Cubans, Italians, and African-Americans.
Transportation of construction materials between downtown and
One of the great symbolic sources of conflict between the
workers and management throughtout
Lectors were hired and paid by the workers, who treasured the right to select the reading materials. Prior to 1898 the concern by management included the issue of Cuban independence; after 1900, the issue was the anti-management, pro-proletarian themes of the literature. Socialist, anarchist, and communist literature mixed with local news and popular novels like Emile Zola and Miguel de Cervantes.
Since the workers selected the publications and novels, the lector was a voice piece for the workers. Talented lectors commanded great salaries as well as great resentment by the manufacturers.
The decline of the lector was signalled as a decline of the workers' movement and their continual struggle against the manufactuers. Unfortunately, forces beyond the control of both the skilled cigarmakers and the manufacturers would forever change the cigarmaking industry and end an entire