Starbucks to close 8000 US stores for racial-bias training

Published: 18 April 2018 Image credit: Reuters

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Starbucks has announced it will close the doors to 8000 company owned US cafes for an afternoon on May 29 so staff can undergo racial-bias training.

The move comes after two black men were arrested while waiting for a friend in a Philadelphia store last week. The actions of Starbucks staff and police sparked protests and calls for boycotts.

The world’s biggest coffee company also announced it will be providing training materials for non-company workers at roughly 6000 licensed Starbucks cafes located in grocery stores and airports that are remaining open.

The company has been accused of racial profiling, igniting a boycott campaign on social media.

The controversy is putting former technology executive and new Starbucks Chief Executive Kevin Johnson to the test.

“While this is not limited to Starbucks, we’re committed to being a part of the solution,” Mr Johnson said.

He apologised for the “reprehensible” arrests of the two men in Philadelphia last Thursday and took personal responsibility for the incident, which was captured in widely shared social media video.

Philadelphia Police said a series of calls from Starbucks staff led to the arrests of the two men last week.

One employee apparently called to report two gentlemen in the café were refusing to make an order or to leave. This staff member no longer works for Starbucks.

Police received a second phone call from an unidentified male, who said a “group of males” were “causing a disturbance” that required backup.

Philadelphia’s police commissioner defended the arrests, saying his officers had to act after the employee told them the two men were trespassing.

Even if the threatened boycott doesn’t eventuate, the closure of the 8000 stores is still expected to impact sales.

The company has not announced how many hours the stores will be closed for next month.