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Susan Green

“Nature’s Cheapest Complete Food” Is a Bonanza to Profiteers

Milk Is a Good Food, But Can You Afford It?

(1 December 1941)

From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 48, 1 December 1941, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Big “ads” in the papers ask: “Do you drink enough milk?” And they inform the reader that milk has vitamin A plus calcium plus an alkaline reaction – in fact, it is “nature’s CHEAPEST complete food.”

But when you read that word “CHEAPEST,” you see red. You punch the “ad” right on the nose, after which you fling the paper down and jump on it.

Your trouble is not that you don’t know all about the dietary virtues of milk. IT IS THAT YOU CAN’T AFFORD TO BUY AS MUCH OF IT AS YOUR FAMILY NEEDS.

For in the past few months the price has gone up NINETEEN PER CENT in the New York area – and an average of FOURTEEN PER CENT throughout the country.

The latest increase in the New York area brought the price of delivered milk up to SEVENTEEN CENTS A QUART. The powerful Borden and Sheffield companies, the main milk distributors in this, district, “explained” – with straight faces – that they had to add another half cent a quart because of the $2.50 a week wage increase granted their employees as of October 25. They spent large sums of money to propagandize their customers, with pamphlets and leaflets. These were sprinkled with so-called statistics designed to “prove” that the poor companies JUST HAD to boost the price of milk TO COVER THE WAGE INCREASE because the poor things chronically operate at a loss or at so slight a profit it’s hardly worth mentioning. You’d think delivering milk is just a hobby they enjoy for its own sake.

The Facts Talk


Just taking this last half cent a quart increase – OF WHICH THERE HAVE BEEN FIVE IN THE PAST FEW MONTHS, TOTALING TWO AND A HALF CENTS A QUART, and for four of which there wasn’t even the false justification of a wage increase – it will require the New York customers of these two companies to pay them $495,000 more for milk per month. However, the wage increase granted the, companies’ employees amounts to only $167,505 a month. The consumer, therefore, actually hands over to the companies $326,495 more than the wage increases paid the workers.

Annually this gratuity that the consumers present to the companies runs up to nearly $4,000,000 – AND IS DULY REFLECTED IN THE SIZE OF THE DIVIDEND CHECKS SENT OUT TO THE HARD-WORKING STOCKHOLDERS. This, of course, is in addition to all other profits.

To break these figures down further: It is estimated that the average routeman takes out each morning about 150 quarts of milk. The price increase of half a cent a quart thus amounts to $1.25 on his entire load. Whereas the driver’s wage increase per day is 42 cents, leaving 83 cents for the poor money-losing companies to profit as an extra tidbit.

A Pretext for Profiteering

It is necessary to go into such detail because these figures are important not only as they pertain to the criminally high price of milk. They are typical of the part wage increases actually play in the mounting cost of living. That is, THEY ARE THE PRETEXT USED BY THE INDUSTRIAL VULTURES TO GORGE THEMSELVES ON THE CONSUMER MASSES.

Proving this fact on a wide scale, a recent report of AFL economists showed that in a given period, when prices rose THIRTEEN AND ONE HALF PER CENT, wage increases added ONLY TWO PER CENT to manufacturing, costs. This gives an idea how thick the profiteers are laying it on.

Of course the milk distributors also “explain” that they are paying more for raw milk – just as manufacturers “explain” they are paying more for raw materials – and must load this also onto the back of the consumer.

But the worker must remember that the wages of the farm laborer and of the poor farmer are not responsible for the climbing prices of raw materials any more than the wages of industrial workers cause the runaway prices of finished products. IT IS THE FARMING CORPORATIONS, THE RICH FARMERS, WHO TAKE ALL THE WAR-TRAFFIC WILL BEAR IN AGRICULTURE.

Big Dairymen Get Theirs

In the milk industry it is the big dairymen who get theirs – Millionaire Farmer Owen D. Young among them. And it must also be understood that Borden’s and Sheffield’s are themselves, directly and indirectly, engaged in the dairying end of the business, thereby profiting twice, ONCE FROM THE HIGH PRICE OF RAW MILK AND A SECOND TIME FROM THE HIGH PRICE THE CONSUMER IS COMPELLED TO PAY FOR DELIVERED MILK.

Nor is this method of profiteering at both ends peculiar to the milk industry as such. The inter-weaving of the capital structure is such that this is the rule rather than the exception. Consider, for instance, the Borden Company’s contention that it pays 20 per cent more for the fuel oil burned in its plants and must take that too out of the consumer’s little black purse. You can bet dollars to doughnuts that the same capitalist interests that benefit from the high price of milk are LIKEWISE LICKING THEIR CHOPS OVER THE HIGH PRICE OF FUEL OIL.

It is this profit structure of capitalist society that is responsible for the cost of living getting out of band. The shrewd lackeys of this inhuman system, in an out of Congress, see in the general worrying over the cost of living a chance to smack labor down. BUT LABOR REFUSES TO BE THE GOAT FOR THE WAR PROFITEERS.

True of All Industry

And war profiteering IS the other name for the high cost of living today. Confirmation comes from the Department of Agriculture on this very question of the shamefully high cost of milk through the country in the following words: “Keen competition between the public and the government for dairy products has contributed to a 14 per cent advance in fluid milk prices for most city consumers.” Then the report goes on to explain how large government purchases of cheese and evaporated and dried milk are being made for shipment to Great Britain under the lease-lend program.

What else is this but a way of saying that the milk companies [are] taking advantage of the war demand to raise prices? WHAT ELSE IS THIS BUT WAR PROFITEERING? Not only do the bloated profiteers get fantastic prices, BUT THEY GET THESE PRICES ON THE STUPENDOUS VOLUME OF WAR PRODUCTION.

Again, what is true of milk – which is particularly close to the everyday needs of us all – IS EQUALLY TRUE OF THE PRODUCTS OF ALL INDUSTRY.

The fundamental solution for the high, cost of living IS TO TAKE THE PROFITS OUT OF WAR. That means taking profits out of war industry – which is practically all industry in a total war like this.

Neither the Roosevelt Administration – not any other bunch of capitalist politicians – have the slightest intention of doing this. THAT, FELLOW WORKERS, IS WHERE WE COME IN.


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Last updated: 26 August 2014