In a move aimed at addressing racial bias after a recent incident in a Philadelphia location, Starbucks has announced it will close 8,000 U.S. stores for a mandatory staff training session next month.
The decision was sparked by the arrest of two black men waiting for a friend in a Starbucks location. A Starbucks employee called the police on the men for trespassing, an issue Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson called “reprehensible.”
The prosecutor’s office declined to press charges against the men and Starbucks reported that the employee who called the police is no longer an employee of the coffee chain.
The incident sparked a string of protests and social media calls to #BoycottStarbucks.
“I’ve spent the last few days in Philadelphia with my leadership team listening to the community, learning what we did wrong and the steps we need to take to fix it,” Johnson said.
Starbucks has taken recent steps to boost its image, some of them unsuccessful: the 2015 “Race Together” coffee cup campaign backfired, with many condemning it as superficial and lacking any real effort to advance a dialogue on race.
Following the Philadelphia arrests, Johnson said he’s vowing to make “any necessary changes to our practices that would help prevent such an occurrence from ever happening again.”
The company made headlines last month when it announced it had achieved total pay equity for gender and race in the U.S., advancing efforts to achieve similar results worldwide.
This isn’t the first time Starbucks has closed its locations for training. In 2008, it shut 7,100 of its American locations for three hours. “But that training focused more on making the perfect latte as the company struggled with sputtering sales,” reported the New York Times.
Nearly 175,000 employees will receive the anti-bias training on May 29th.
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