The Hand That Feeds (2014)

  • Director/ Producer/ Cinematography: Rachel Lears
  • Editor: David Meneses
  • Co-Producer: Patricia Benabe
  • Executive Producer: Alex Rivera
  • Director/ Producer/ Editor: Robin Blotnick
Film Length:
84 minutes
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At the 63rd Street Hot and Crusty cafe, residents of New Yorks Upper East Side get bagels and coffee served with a smile 24 hours a day. But behind the scenes, undocumented immigrant workers face sub-legal wages, dangerous machinery, and abusive managers who will fire them for calling in sick. Mild-mannered sandwich maker Mahoma Lpez has never been interested in politics, but in January 2012, he convinces a small group of his co-workers to fight back.

Risking deportation and the loss of their livelihood, the workers team up with a diverse crew of innovative young organizers and take the unusual step of forming their own independent union, launching themselves on a journey that will test the limits of their resolve. In one roller-coaster year, they must overcome a shocking betrayal and a two-month lockout. Lawyers will battle in court, Occupy Wall Street protesters will take over the restaurant, and a picket line will divide the neighborhood. If they 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 Hand That Feeds is currently screening in film festivals, and will be available in wider release in 2016. Please join our email list or follow us on Facebook or Twitter to find out about upcoming screenings and availability.

The Film Campaign

We think this film has the potential to change the way Americans think about labor, immigration and activism. It shows a labor struggle that is completely independent, and an activist struggle that is exciting, fun and successful in concrete ways, while delving into the personalities and stories of undocumented immigrants who often remain invisible.

We are developing a national network of partner organizations and a comprehensive audience engagement strategy including policy advocacy, grassroots organizing, and education. At a policy level, the film will promote living wage legislation, immigration reform, collective bargaining rights, and the replication of New York State laws like the Wage Theft Prevention Act of 2011. As an organizing tool, the film will inspire workers to stand up for dignity and justice and others to support them. As an educational tool, the film will make complex issues accessible through a character- and plot-driven narrative.

Issue: Economy, Human Rights, Race & Ethnicity


Reel Economy


  • AFI Docs - Best of Fest (2014)
  • aluCine Latine Film + Media Arts Festival - Audience Award (2015)
  • Chicago Latino Film Festival - Audience Award for Best Documentary (2015)
  • DOC NYC - Audience Award (2014)
  • Document Human Rights Film festival - International Jury Prize (2014)
  • Full Frame Documentary Film Festival - Audience Award for Best Feature (2014)
  • Reading Film Festival - Jury Prize, Best Documentary (2015)
  • Sidewalk Film Festival - Jury Prize, Best Documentary Feature (2014)

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