Starbucks Closing Stores for One-Day Racial Bias Education

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Starbucks Closing Stores for One-Day Racial Bias Education

04/19/2018
The exterior of a Starbucks location
Starbucks will provide mandatory training for nearly 175,000 employees.

SEATTLE — Starbucks Coffee Co. will be shutting the doors on all its 8,000-plus stores on the afternoon of May 29 to hold racial bias education for all its employees.

The training, which will be provided to almost 175,000 employees, is aimed at preventing discrimination at Starbucks locations. It will also be incorporated into the onboarding process for all new employees, according to the company.

The company's decision came after two black men were arrested at Starbucks in the Center City neighborhood of Philadelphia. According to reports, the men were sitting at a table as they waited to meet someone for a business meeting. After one asked to use the restroom, an employee told the man the bathroom was for paying customers. The men had bottled water with them and declined to purchase anything; an employee eventually placed a 911 call, leading to them men's arrest.

"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," said Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson. "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."

In addition to all company-owned retail stores, the Starbucks corporate offices will also close for the afternoon on May 29. During that time, partners will go through a training program designed to address implicit bias, promote conscious inclusion, prevent discrimination and ensure everyone inside a Starbucks store feels safe and welcome.

"The company's founding values are based on humanity and inclusion," said Executive Chairman Howard Schultz, who joined Johnson and other senior Starbucks leaders in Philadelphia to meet with community leaders and Starbucks partners.

"We will learn from our mistakes and reaffirm our commitment to creating a safe and welcoming environment for every customer," he said.

According to the company, the curriculum will be developed with guidance from several national and local experts confronting racial bias, including:

  • 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 U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder; and
  • Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League.

Seattle-based Starbucks will involve these experts in monitoring and reviewing the effectiveness of the measures it undertakes.

In addition, the company said it "began a review of its training and practices to make important reforms where necessary to ensure our stores always represent our mission and values, by providing a safe and inclusive environment for our customers and partners."

Once completed, Starbucks will make the education materials available to other companies, including its licensee partners, for use with their employees and leadership.