America ReFramed

The Hand That Feeds

Season 04  Episode 19

Filmed at the onset of America’s new service economy wage wars, THE HAND THAT FEEDS tells the story of the power struggle that turned a single city block into a battlefield. At a popular bakery café in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, patrons get bagels and coffee served with a smile 24 hours a day. Behind the scenes, some of the undocumented immigrant workers earn far below the minimum wage.

The documentary offers a candid and urgent behind the scenes look at the plight of undocumented immigrant workers who face sub-legal wages, dangerous machinery and abusive managers. These workers run the risk of being fired for merely requesting a legitimate and much needed sick day. Mahoma López, a mild-mannered sandwich-maker, has never been interested in politics. But, in January 2012 he convinces a small group of his coworkers to fight back. The film documents Mahoma’s transformation and the group’s steps towards advocating for their rights with the support of the Laundry Workers Center and young Occupy Wall Street (OWS) activists.

Risking deportation and the loss of their livelihood, the workers take the unusual step of forming an independent union and launching themselves on a path that will test the limits of their resolve: battles with lawyers, OWS protesters take over the restaurant, and a picket line divides the neighborhood. If the workers can win a contract, it will set a historic precedent for low-wage workers across the country. But whatever happens, Mahoma and his coworkers will never be exploited again. The unlikely journey solidifies their courage and commitment to the cause and each other.


Watch THE HAND THAT FEEDS and a whole collection of films as part of Hispanic Heritage Month. Join the conversation with us on social media using the hashtag #WeAreLatinX/#SomosLatinX. And engage with family & friends using our downloadable Social Activity Toolkit.