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The Bitter Taste of Tea: A Journey into the World of Fair Trade

Film screening followed by a forum on tea and fair trade.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010
6:30 PM - 8:00 PM
James Bridges Theater, 1409 Melnitz
Los Angeles, CA 90095

A film by Tom Heinemann and Erling Borgen, Denmark, 2008.

This program travels to tea estates in Sri Lanka, Kenya, India, and Bangladesh—some traditional, some fair trade—to expose unsafe work environments and labor exploitation. Finding little meaningful difference between fair trade and non-fair trade operations, questions arise: Are fair trade organizations such as the E.U.’s Max Havelaar Foundation being duped by tea growers? Or are growers doing the best they can in a brutal industry and a market that has yet to demand the quantities of fair trade tea that would create meaningful trickle-down profits for their workers? It is left to the viewer to weigh the arguments and decide.

Visit the filmmakers' website for more information about The Bitter Taste of Tea.

The screening will be followed by a discussion forum on tea and fair trade with:

Katherine Stone, UCLA Professor of Law
Katherine Stone is a leading expert in labor and employment law in the United States. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship Award in 2008 and a Russell Sage Fellowship for 2008-2009 for her work on the changing nature of employment and the regulatory implications. Her forthcoming book, Globalization and Flexibilization: The Remaking of the Employment Relationship in the 21st Century, will examine the changing employment landscape in Japan, Australia, and Europe. Professor Stone is the founder and director of the Globalization and Labor Standards Project, that maintains a database on scholarly articles about comparative and transnational labor issues and publishes a monthly newsletter. It can be found at

Rodney North, "The Answer Man," Equal Exchange
Rodney North is one of the most senior members of Equal Exchange, the worker co-operative that introduced Fair Trade foods to the US market in the 1980’s. Equal Exchange remains the largest Fair Trade company in the country. They currently work with more than 40 co-operatives of small-scale, mostly organic, coffee, tea, cocoa, sugar and banana farmers, in over 20 countries. Rodney has a degree in International Development. He joined the co-operative in 1996, serves on the Equal Exchange Board of Directors and his primary role is as an all-purpose information resource for journalists, researchers, and the public.

David Funkhouser, TransFair USA
TransFair USA is the non-profit third-party certifying organization, based in Oakland, that first certified Fair Trade foods for the US market, founded in 1998. TransFair is the US member of the interational Fair Trade umbrella group Fair Trade Labeling Organizations International


Moderated by Beatrice Hohenegger, author and guest curator of “Steeped in History: The Art of Tea,” a 2009 museum exhibition on the history and culture of tea at the Fowler Museum at UCLA.

Part of the UCLA International Institute Human Rights Film Series.

There will be an informal reception before the screening beginning at 6:00 pm.


Sponsor(s): Asia Institute, Center for India and South Asia

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