Starbucks to shut 8,000 U.S. outlets for bias training after protests

Starbucks says it will close its more than 8,000 company-owned outlets in the U.S. for part of a day in May to conduct "racial-bias education" for its staff in the wake of the recent arrest of two black men at one of its stores in Philadelphia.

Arrests of 2 black men in Philadelphia outlet leads to protests, social media backlash

Demonstrators occupy the Starbucks that has become the centre of protests in Philadelphia. The company plans to close more than 8,000 U.S. stores in May for racial bias training for its staff. (Jacqueline Larma/Associated Press)

Starbucks Coffee Co. says it will close its more than 8,000 company-owned outlets in the U.S. for part of a day in May to conduct "racial-bias education" for its staff in the wake of the recent arrest of two black men at one of its stores in Philadelphia.

In a release issued Tuesday, Starbucks said the stores and its corporate offices will be shut for the afternoon on May 29 so its 175,000 U.S. employees can go through training to address "implicit bias, promote conscious inclusion, prevent discrimination and ensure everyone inside a Starbucks store feels safe and welcome."

Company CEO Kevin Johnson said: "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," he said.

In a tweet, Starbucks said its was "taking a hard look at who we are as a company."

"We're ashamed & recognize that racial bias is a problem we must address," the tweet said.

The two men were arrested by police on April 12 while they were in the shop waiting to meet someone. An employee at the outlet called 911 to say the men were trespassing. According to media reports, officials have said police were told the men asked to use the store's restroom but  they were denied because they hadn't bought anything and they refused to
leave.

The men were subsequently released for lack of evidence that a crime had been committed, a spokesperson for the district attorney's office said. 

The Starbucks employee who called police no longer works at the store, a company spokesperson said without giving further details.

Johnson said the arrests should not have happened, and the company and a lawyer for the two men said Johnson met them and offered an apology.

On Monday, about two dozen demonstrators occupied the Philadelphia shop where the incident took place. Starbucks has also faced a backlash on social media since the arrests with the hashtag #BoycottStarbucks trending on Twitter.

Starbucks shares rose 40 cents, or about 0.7 per cent, to close at $59.83 US on Nasdaq.

With files from The Associated Press

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.