by Samuel Lapin and Katelyn Mays; edited by Courtney Chlebina
The National Lawyers Guild (NLG), Immigration and Human Rights Committee, and the Sheller Center for Social Justice recently hosted a two-part event focused on workers’ rights, especially undocumented workers. The first day featured a screening of the documentary The Hand That Feeds. On the second day, a panel discussion focused on issues raised by the film and facing low-wage workers generally.
The Hand That Feeds follows Mahoma Lopez as he works to organize his fellow workers—many of who are undocumented—at a New York City restaurant to bargain for better pay and working conditions. The film documents the challenges Mr. Lopez and his fellow workers faced, including achieving recognition as a union and securing work after winning that recognition. That the workers’ campaign takes place against the backdrop of the Occupy Wall Street protests in Manhattan serves to highlight the specific challenges facing Mr. Lopez and his coworkers as undocumented workers. Their immigration status left potential union members susceptible to threats of arrest and deportation.
As a follow-up to the documentary, the panel discussed issues facing low-wage workers, specifically undocumented workers in the restaurant industry. A few themes appeared throughout the discussion: the moral imperative behind higher wages, the power of consumers, and the power of a narrative. The event provided a timely look into the movement for higher wages for undocumented and low-wage workers, many of whom work at restaurants frequented by Temple Law students.
Watch the presentation here.