The Hand That Feed

Wednesday, October 28, 2015
12:30 - 2:00pm
UCLA Public Affairs | Luskin Faculty Lounge 5391

Presented by: Rachel Lears | Director, Producer, Cinematographer

                        Robin Blotnick | Director, Producer, Editor

Discussant:     Abel Valenzuela | UCLA Chicana/o Studies & Urban Planning



About the Film:

At a popular bakery café, residents of New York’s 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 López 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 back rooms, 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.



About the Speakers:



Rachel's award-winning first feature doc Birds of Passage (2010) was supported by Fulbright and the National Film Institute of Uruguay, had two community screening tours of Uruguay sponsored by the Ministry of Education and Culture, and was broadcast nationally throughout Latin America. Her ongoing video art collaborations with artist Saya Woolfalk have screened at numerous galleries and museums worldwide since 2008. Rachel was a 2013 Sundance Creative Producing Fellow, and also holds a PhD in Cultural Anthropology from NYU.


Robin's first documentary, Chocolate Country (2006), received a Grand Jury Prize at the Seattle International Film Festival, was a winner in LinkTV’s ViewChange competition, and is used as a teaching tool by educators and Fair Trade advocates around the world. His feature documentary debut, Gods and Kings (2012), about masks, magic and media in the highlands of Guatemala, won the Intangible Culture Prize at the RAI International Festival of Ethnographic Films (Scotland, 2013) and was the opening night film at Ethnocineca (Vienna, 2014). Robin is also a 2013 Sundance Creative Producing Fellow.



Professor Valenzuela holds a joint appointment in the Department of Chicana/o Studies and Urban Planning.   His research is primarily concerned with the issues faced by minorities and immigrants in the U.S.   His work focuses on three key areas, which are interrelated: 1) immigration and labor markets, 2) poverty and inequality, and 3) immigrant settlement patterns and related services.   His work combines ethnographic, in-depth interviews, participant observation, and quantitative methods to document and explain the processes that govern the incorporation of immigrants into U.S. society.   He is currently working on several projects looking at low skilled immigrant workers, the role of immigrant workers and disaster relief, and immigrant participation in civil society.


At UCLA, Professor Valenzuela Directs the Center for the Study of Urban Poverty.   He teaches courses on immigration and U.S. society, urban poverty and public policy, labor markets, and planning issues in minority communities.



This event is presented by the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment; cosponsored with the UCLA Labor Center and UCLA Department of Film, Television, and Digital Media