Over 8,000 Starbucks outlets have been closed for 'bias training'
Over 8,000 Starbucks coffee shops in the United States have closed today in order to accommodate "anti-racial bias training", at a cost of an estimated $12 million in lost profits. The training scheme was launched in response to an alleged case of racial profiling which occurred in Pennsylvania. A Starbucks manager at a café in Philadelphia phoned police and asked that they arrest a pair of African-American men on April 12, 2018. Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson were taken away by police on a charge of trespassing after they asked staff if they could use the bathroom while waiting for a friend.
Robinson and Nelson's arrest was filmed and the footage quickly went viral. It whipped up a storm of controversy and eventually led to protests at the shop where the arrests occurred. Starbucks has since announced that the store manager responsible for the incident no longer works for them.
The company is hoping to train approximately 175,000 employees over a four-hour period, and has employed the services of a number of civil rights experts to help with the training. These experts include Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative; Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund; Heather McGhee, president of Demos; former US Attorney General Eric Holder; and Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League.
Commenting on the move in a statement made on Starbucks' official website, CEO Kevin Johnson stated: "I’ve spent the last few days in Philadelphia with my leadership team listening to the community, learning what we did wrong and the steps we need to take to fix it. While this is not limited to Starbucks, we’re committed to being a part of the solution. Closing our stores for racial bias training is just one step in a journey that requires dedication from every level of our company and partnerships in our local communities."
Meanwhile, executive chairman Howard Schultz added: "The company's founding values are based on humanity and inclusion ... We will learn from our mistakes and reaffirm our commitment to creating a safe and welcoming environment for every customer."
This isn't the first time that Starbucks has been criticised over its supposed racial insensitivity. In 2015, Starbucks launched a marketing campaign to promote positive race relations, dubbed: "#RaceTogether" - which backfired. Baristas were encouraged to discuss racial issues with customers after they had written "#RaceTogether" on their cups; a move that some media commentators decried as preachy or insincere.