Recently, tensions have been running high in Washington, as President Trump and Congress battle over the border wall, DACA, and the future of the Dreamers. Immigration is a hot topic, to say the least.
Approximately eight million undocumented immigrants work in the United States, with 33 percent working in service industries, according to a Pew Research Center study from 2015.
In the 2014 documentary The Hand That Feeds, undocumented food service workers in New York City fight for their rights
Written and directed by Rachel Lears and Robin Blotnick, The Hand That Feeds was filmed in 2012. It follows Mahoma López, a sandwich maker at the Hot and Crust Deli in Manhattan, through his journey to gain basic workers’ rights: a minimum wage salary, paid overtime, sick days, and vacation—rights that, undocumented or not, workers in New York State are legally entitled to.
On January 27 at 11am, Upstate Films in Rhinebeck will screen the film as part of its ENGAGE series, which presents films related to social justice to encourage community action.
“We are undocumented. That doesn’t mean they have to profit from our hunger,” says one worker in the film.
Risking deportation, López and his coworkers go against the system to gain the rights they deserve. The married father of two leads them in the complicated process of forming a union and negotiating a contract with their management.
“[López] is the steady, insistent voice at Hot And Crusty that declares that everyone deserves better. He remains their confident leader, helping his co-workers through negotiating their demands, and never wavering when management closes the store, locks them out for nearly two months, and does everything possible to undercut each and every victory they make,” Indiewire wrote in a 2015 review of the film.
The film doesn’t hold back, bringing up topics of undocumented immigrants’ rights, service industry workers’ contributions to the economy, and the achievements of undocumented immigrant movements.
After the screening, advocates for workers’ rights will participate in a panel discussion on these issues, including Suzanne Adely of the Food Chain Workers Alliance, Rosanna Aran of the Laundry Workers Center, Catherine Barnett of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, and Emma Kreyche of the Worker Justice Center of New York. The ENGAGE film series also distributes cards with bullet points of community action to audiences after its screenings.
The event is free, and a requested donation of $10 will benefit the Food Chain Workers Alliance.