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The wages of revolution are… 75 centavos a day

27 April 2015

Bet you didn’t know this.  The first minimum wage laws in the Americas was not the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt.  It was the Decreto sobre aumento de salarios signed by Venustiano Carranza on 26 April 1915, setting a minimum wage of 0.75 pesos a day, and forbidding employers from adding extra hours to the workday (on farms it was sunup to sundown).

This wasn’t totally done out the goodness of Carranza’s heart.  At the time, the Constitutional Republic could only enforce the wage in the states controlled by Álvaro Obregón (Michoacán, Querétaro, Hidalgo y Guanajuato).  Pushing Carranza to iindexssue his executive order, Obregón had a dual purpose.  Coming in the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Celaya (6-15 April),  which crushed Pancho Villa’s army as a military force, Carranza (and Obregón) there was widespread opposition to the Constitutionalists among the populace, and Obregón — always known for his preference for buying off his opponents as an alternative to crushing them militarily — saw potential allies in the working class.  And, remember that the Mexican economy had collapsed.  With no real central government, or rather, with several competing governments, states and municipalities, as well as various revolutionary

1914 Constitutionalist Peso… “Death to Huerta” is catchier than “In God We Trust”

factions, had all issued their own money,  which might or might not be considered real depending not just on whatever faction was in control in any given area, but how merchants and bankers valued the currency.  While paying in Constitutionalist pesos  in Constitutionalist areas would immediately make it the de facto, as well as legal tender, in those states, it also meant that the merchants knew that the currency was being regularly paid out, and could be counted on to hold its value, even  if it circulated in regions outside Constituionalist control assuming it would eventually find its way into Constitutionalist territory .  Given that they were winning, those 75 centavos a day, were doing as much to increase that territory as Obregón’s army was.

One Comment leave one →
  1. 27 April 2015 3:52 am

    Good points!

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