La Gran Fundición Nacional Mexicana
On 18 October 1890 Daniel Guggenheim, one of the Guggenheim brothers, received an exemption from taxes for the $300,000 that they were investing in a smelter in Monterrey. The Guggenheims hired as manager H. M. Dieffenbach, whose experience in mining, ore buying, and Mexican business in general, was to prove highly useful. The Monterrey smelter began operations in January 1892, stimulating mining in all the parts of Mexico that fed it, and by 1902 employed 1,300 workers.
In June 1899 the newspaper El Popular had an opinion piece on this Gran Fundición Nacional Mexicana Núm. 3, decrying the “abusive mistreatment that the Mexican worker receives in the workshops of Yankee companies”. The North Americans did the least work and earned the most pay. The Mexicans risked their lives every minute in the dangerous environment and also for ruinous wages, as payments were made monthly and the workers never had the funds to sustain their expenses but resorted to loans, vales and other expensive means. When the workers were paid in coin, it was barely enough to settle the debts contracted and so their indebtedness continued. Naturally, there was a tienda de raya in the Fundición, selling goods with a moderate surcharge of fifty percent. Some employees with a conscience had tried to cut some abuses, for the benefit of Mexican workers, but this had been enough to get them fired
The newspaper demanded that the governor, General Bernardo Reyes, set up an enquiryEl Popular, Año III, Núm. 884, 20 June 1899.
In July 1899 Reyes then wrote to Dieffenbach that the workers at the smelter were constantly complaining that they were paid monthly, not weekly, and had to draw goods from the tienda de raya which they then had to sell at low prices to produce cash, He asked him to remedy the situationCEHM Fondo DL-I, Copiadores del General Bernardo Reyes (1899-1911), carpeta 30, legajo 16011 letter Reyes to H. M. Dieffenbach, 3 July 1899.
We can note that there were similar complaints about the Gran Fundición Central Mexicana in Aguascalientes.