Published: Wed, April 18, 2018
Markets | By Noel Gibbs

Starbucks Will Close All Its Stores in May for Racial-Bias Training

Starbucks Will Close All Its Stores in May for Racial-Bias Training

Starbucks will close 8,000 of its company-owned USA stores on May 29 to conduct racial-bias education geared toward preventing discrimination in its stores, the company announced Tuesday in a press release.

In the 20-second 911 call that preceded the arrests of two black men in a Center City Philadelphia Starbucks on Thursday - an incident that has sparked worldwide outrage - the caller said the men had refused to make a purchase or leave the store, according to audio of the call and subsequent police radio chatter released Tuesday by Philadelphia police. "If a business calls and they say that "Someone is here that I no longer wish to be in my business" (officers) now have a legal obligation to carry out their duties and they did just that".

In response, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson met with the two men who were arrested and called the incident "reprehensible".

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Rosalind Brewer, Starbucks' chief operating officer, reiterated the call for unconscious bias training among store managers in a morning interview with NPR and called the incident a "teachable moment for all of us". Indeed, Starbucks announced just moments ago that it would close 8,000 stores on May 29 in order to to conduct racial bias training.

The training materials will also be made available to other companies. It is unclear whether the training will continue beyond that one day, and whether Starbucks has any rules in place to make sure employees are adhering to the training later on, although the company did state it would be part of the "onboarding process" for new employees.

A joint statement by Starbucks and the men's lawyer said they had "engaged in constructive discussions about this issue as well as what is happening in communities across the country".

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According to press reports, the two men entered the Starbucks and asked for the key to the bathroom.

A patron at the store shot video of the men wearing handcuffs and being escorted out by police officers, which was shared widely on social media. Responding officers called for backup before cuffing the men and escorting them out of the coffee shop, which was caught on a video that went viral around the world. "I believe that blame is misplaced", he said during a video statement released over the weekend.

Law enforcement agencies and companies have adopted bias training, but programs can vary. Video shows several police talking quietly with two black men seated at a table.

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The Philadelphia Police Department has likewise receiving scathing backlash for its decision to arrest the two men, but Commissioner Richard Ross is adamant that his officers took the right course of action. Chipotle shut its stores for several hours on February 8, 2016, for food safety training. Johnson apologized and wants to meet with the men.

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