The nation’s largest coffee chain is continuing to respond to an incident that sparked widespread backlash and calls for a boycott last week.
After two black men were arrested while waiting at a Starbucks location in Philadelphia, critics accused the chain of racial bias and the company soon apologized.
On top of CEO Kevin Johnson’s personal apology to the two men in a meeting this week, the chain announced plans to close company-owned locations across the nation for an afternoon of racial-bias education.
About 8,000 stores are set to be shut down for part of the business day on May 29, according to a statement released Tuesday.
“The training will be provided to nearly 175,000 partners (employees) across the country, and will become part of the onboarding process for new partners,” Starbucks said in a news release.
The statement explained that “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.”
Starbucks suggested that the goal of this initiative is to prevent discrimination across the board, with Johnson indicating the afternoon of education is “just one step” in this process.
He explained that achieving the company’s larger goal “requires dedication from every level of our company and partnerships in our local communities.”
As tensions rose in recent days, the CEO expressed a desire to meet personally with the men arrested during an encounter captured in a now-viral video.
Two black men, arrested for allegedly trespassing inside a Philadelphia Starbucks, met with the coffee chain's CEO after he publicly apologized; their arrests sparked calls for a Starbucks boycott https://t.co/vCWCufPk6H pic.twitter.com/r9wR5wYsC6
— CBS News (@CBSNews) April 16, 2018
“In the coming days, I will be joining our regional vice president, Camille Hymes — who is on the ground in Philadelphia — to speak with partners, customers and community leaders as well as law enforcement,” Johnson wrote in a letter addressing the issue. “Most importantly, I hope to meet personally with the two men who were arrested to offer a face-to-face apology.”
He got his wish Monday, meeting with the men personally in Philadelphia to express his regret. Though the men were initially arrested on suspicion of trespassing, they were not charged.
Starbucks Executive Chairman Howard Schultz also made the trip to Philadelphia this week and weighed in on an issue he said continues to impact his company and society in general.
He said Starbucks’ “founding values are based on humanity and inclusion,” a goal the company sometimes fails to achieve.
“We will learn from our mistakes and reaffirm our commitment to creating a safe and welcoming environment for every customer,” he said.
In an effort to help address the problem on a larger scale, Starbucks confirmed it will not keep the program to itself.
“Once completed, the company will make the education materials available to other companies, including our licensee partners, for use with their employees and leadership,” the statement read.
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