Starbucks to close Tuesday afternoon for racial bias training

Muriel Colon
May 29, 2018

In an effort to stem the outcry over the arrest of two black men at one of its stores, Starbucks will close 8,000 US stores Tuesday afternoon for anti-bias training for its employees.

Beginning at 11:30 a.m. ET, more than 8,000 company-owned stores across the nation will begin to close for the four hours of training.

Most of the 7,000 licensed stores, including those operated by hotels, grocery stores and airports, should be open.

Starbucks' training could have a lasting impact on its employees' behavior and pave the way for other companies to finally tackle racism in their own eateries and shops, said Heather McGhee, president of public policy group Demos. Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz, chief executive officer Kevin Johnson and musician and activist Common will serve as virtual guides.

"We determined that insufficient support and training, a company policy that defined customers as paying patrons-versus anyone who enters a store-and bias led to the decision to call the police", he said.

Black leaders who are advising Starbucks Corp on the training hope it will reinvigorate decades-old efforts to ensure minorities get equal treatment in restaurants and stores, setting an example for other corporations. Since, according to the announcement, Starbucks locations will close only for part of the afternoon, MarketWatch has calculated that locations could lose about 20% of their daily revenue, or $12 million. Those two men, Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson, were sitting in the store for several minutes waiting for a business meeting with a third person when they were arrested and removed from the store. The staff at the Philadelphia Starbucks called 911 after the men, who didn't buy anything, asked to use the restroom while they waited for a friend. Almost 175,000 employees will participate in the diversity training program - a first step, the company said, in addressing issues of racial bias among its workforce after a high-profile incident in Philadelphia last month prompted massive backlash and public outcry.

Executives and managers are also taking anti-bias training, Ifill said.

Eric Varner of Grove City says he once worked for Starbucks adding that the company has always been very focused on promoting an open and inclusive culture.

"We are committed to creating a culture of warmth and belonging where everyone is welcome, " Starbucks said in a statement. If so, employees are instructed to approach the customer, while another employee watches, and respectfully ask the customer to cease the offensive action.

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