Starbucks to Close all U.S. Stores on May 29
Chicaco Tribune - Starbucks has announced plans to close all U.S. stores and corporate offices on the afternoon of May 29 to train employees against racial bias after the arrest last week of two black men waiting at one of the company’s Philadelphia stores.
The training, which will close the more than 8,000 company-owned stores in the U.S., is designed to address implicit bias, promote conscious inclusion and prevent discrimination, the company said.
Meanwhile, outrage over the arrest is prompting calls for protests and boycotts, including some planned Wednesday at 10 Chicago stores.
“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,” Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said in a news release Tuesday. “While this is not limited to Starbucks, we’re committed to being a part of the solution. 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.”
Nearly 175,000 current employees and all new hires will receive the training, developed with national and local experts from groups including the Equal Justice Initiative, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Anti-Defamation League and former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Those experts will also be involved in reviewing the program’s effectiveness, Starbucks said.
Starbucks isn’t the only company introducing the training in an effort to combat discrimination. American Airlines said it planned to roll out annual implicit bias training in January after the NAACP issued a travel advisory last fall that accused the airline of mistreating African-American passengers. Since last summer, more than 400 CEOs signed on to a pledge to roll out or expand unconscious bias education and take other steps to promote diversity, according to the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion initiative.
Phillip Jackson, chairman and founder of Chicago nonprofit The Black Star Project, called Starbucks’ plans to offer training “too little, too late.” Jackson said he’d like to see the chain and other national companies take broader steps to combat inequality.
The Black Star Project announced plans to boycott the chain and organize demonstrations Wednesday at 10 Chicago locations, including five Loop coffee shops and one store each in the Near North, Bronzeville, South Shore, Hyde Park and Buena Park neighborhoods.
Protests have already hit the Philadelphia store where the men were arrested Thursday, and the hashtag #BoycottStarbucks trended on Twitter as video of the incident spread online.
Video shows officers, who said the men were being arrested for trespassing, handcuffing them and leading them out of the store. Other customers protested, saying they weren’t doing anything wrong, including a man who told officers the men were waiting to meet with him. Both men were later released.
Philadelphia police released a recording of the call from the Starbucks employee that led to the arrests. In the recording, a woman is heard saying, "Hi, I have two gentlemen in my cafe that are refusing to make a purchase or leave." She gives the address of the Starbucks store, and the entire call lasts less than 30 seconds. In the communications between police and dispatch that were also released, someone refers to "a group of males inside causing a disturbance," and additional officers are sent.
Starbucks also is reviewing its training and practices, and Johnson met with the two men Monday to personally apologize, The Washington Post reported.
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