Starbucks Closes More Than 8000 Stores Today, For Racial Bias Training

Virginia Carson
May 29, 2018

Starbucks employees will receive sensitivity and bias training Tuesday, following the arrest of two black men who visited one of the chain's coffee shops last month.

Starbucks drew national criticism in April after two men, Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson, were arrested at a Starbucks store in Philadelphia.

Starbucks will close 8,000 of its locations across the US on May 29, and here's everything you need to know! The stores are expected to close between 2-3 p.m.

The closings affect all company-operated stores but most of its licensed stores like those operating in airports and grocery stores will remain open.

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In an open letter to Starbucks customers released this morning, the coffee giants' executive chairman Howard Schultz called the training the beginning of a "new chapter in our history".

Calvin Lai, an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at Washington University, also says anti-bias training can sometimes backfire.

"Well, I think like many people, it produced that same very familiar sinking feeling and anger, you know, first that the police were called for what was clearly a matter that did not require law enforcement, and then that these men were arrested by the police in that Starbucks".

Soon after, Starbucks announced a policy change, welcoming anyone to sit in its cafes or use its restrooms, even if they don't buy anything.

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This will mark only the second time that Starbucks has closed all locations for training efforts. The NAACP's Sherrilyn Ifill, who is one of Starbucks's advisors on its anti-bias training material, has previously noted that "this can't be a one-off". Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson also met with the two men in Philadelphia to apologize for the "reprehensible" incident, according to the company's spokesperson, who declined to disclose the details of the meeting. If customers are disruptive, employees have been advised to step in.

She added, "We won't be a rubber stamp" that gives the all-clear on bias in stores and other locations. The list of inappropriate behaviors includes smoking, using drugs or alcohol, sleeping or improperly using the restroom.

Employees will participate in "small self-guided groups" to talk about racial bias and how race impacts them. The guidelines encourage workers to ask if they would take the considered action with any customer, to verify the perceived situation with a co-worker and to dial 911 if the situation becomes unsafe. Training is expected to last about four hours.

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