Starbucks locations across the country will close their doors Tuesday afternoon to train 175,000 employees about racial bias in one of the largest corporate responses to an incident involving racial profiling. A sign posted at a San Francisco store said the store would close at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday and reopen at 5 a.m. Wednesday. About 7,000 licensed Starbucks stores found in hotels, airports, college campuses, commercial buildings and grocery stores have the option to remain open.
But one Australian expert says the training - which will include a talk by the rapper Common - is unlikely to work.
The company's chief executive, Kevin Johnson, flew to Philadelphia to meet with Nelson and Robinson, who later reached a settlement with Starbucks for an undisclosed sum. Police arrested the two men for trespassing, but they were later released without charges, leading Starbucks and police to publicly apologize. He said he'd like to see Starbucks' executive and managerial ranks to become as diverse as the customers they serve.
Ifill said that Starbucks management received a version of the bias training this week. "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".
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"Our hope is that these learning sessions and discussions will make a difference within and beyond our stores", said Rossann Williams, Starbucks executive vice president for US retail, in a news release. In the incident, a Starbucks manager called the police after the two men declined to make a purchase, explaining that they were waiting for a business associate.
Starbucks has already made some policy changes to address bias at the chain. If customers are disruptive, employees have been advised to step in. 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.
As part of the new policy, Starbucks wants its stores to be a warm and welcoming environment, allowing customers to gather and connect.
The company offered specific guidelines in a document shared with workers. They also will participate in discussion and problem-solving sessions on identifying and avoiding bias.
More trainings will follow, although it's unclear if stores will close for those sessions again.