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MAKING PENNIES FIGHT

With organized upstate farmers – and city consumers behind them – Parodneck and Whitney's Milk Consumers Protective Committee gathered the public support needed to demand a change and be heard. In response to their request for "an immediate investigation of the monopolistic practices evidenced by" the increased retail price of milk, Assistant State Attorney General John McGohey immediately led a State Bureau for the Investigation of Monopolies inquiry. Borden and Sheffield kept mum, refusing to comment on the story.19 To further provoke the public, Parodneck published his protests to the New York State Attorney General in the New York Times: "We are prepared to render every aid and assistance, so that the law may be enforced against this illegal monopoly."20

Parodneck's group quickly gained a reputation for their tenacity: "Irate consumers, through the Milk Consumers Protective Committee, argue that milk price are too high and that the distributors can reduce prices and still have a fair margin of profit. With forty organizations behind them and armed with sheaves of facts and figures, tireless women press their demands before the Legislature, the State Agricultural Commissioner, the City Department of Markets, the milk companies and all who will listen. The Dairy Farmers Union, voicing its agreement, has offered to supply the milk for a big consumer-farmer milk cooperative selling directly to the people of New York."21 Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Heffner's office held an open hearing for representatives of consumer groups and distributors on July 13, 1937.22 Those hearings connected groups that bonded together for a common cause.

With the aid of consumer and farmer protesters, the Consumer-Farmer Milk Cooperative received a license to distribute milk in New York City. No small feat considering the restrictive licensing laws put into place in 1933. The CFMC Board Members planned to distribute milk directly from the Dairy Farmers Union to independent Manhattan grocers. Their goal to "be the first...designed to serve low-income families on a city-wide scale" proved to the Milk Control Board that their efforts were a necessary boon to the market.23The new not-for-profit cooperative operated on the principle of 'organized buying power': a 25-cent membership fee paid by consumers entitled each to two-thirds dividend share – vouchers clipped from coop milk cartons could be redeemed in cash. The last third of dividends went to farmers based on the amount of milk supplied to the Cooperative. Wholesale quantities of milk from upstate went straight to the mothers clubs, parent-teacher associations, housing project tenants and local cooperative societies that joined together to "make [their] pennies fight."24