The move comes after a video of arrests made at a Philadelphia location went viral.

Adam Campbell-Schmitt
April 17, 2018

In the wake of a viral video that sparked protests around a Philadelphia location and a boycott of the brand nationally, Starbucks is set to close over 8,000 U.S. locations for racial-bias training. The coffee behemoth has come under fire after footage surfaced online showing the arrest and removal of two black men from the store. The manager alleged the men were trespassing because they had not ordered anything. The men said they were waiting to meet with a business associate. Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson has since apologized on behalf of Starbucks and, yesterday, met with both of the men in person. The manager who called the police no longer works for the company.

To counteract the wave of negative publicity generated by the incident, Starbucks announced it will close over 8,000 of its company-owned stores across the country on the afternoon of Tuesday, May 29 for training purposes. The focus will be to provide employees with racial-bias education "geared toward preventing discrimination in our stores." According to a statement from Starbucks, "during that time, 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."

“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 in a statement. “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.”

Starbucks' outspoken executive chairman Howard Schultz also weighed in, saying, "The company's founding values are based on humanity and inclusion. We will learn from our mistakes and reaffirm our commitment to creating a safe and welcoming environment for every customer."

The company has enlisted advisors from The Equal Justice Initiative, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, public policy organization Demos, and the Anti-Defamation League, as well as former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to develop the curriculum that will be taught during the training. Starbucks says it will make the materials available to other companies.

The incident occurred last Thursday when management called the police who arrived on the scene, handcuffed the men and removed them from the store. While the arrest took place, the aforementioned business associate also arrived and informed the police the men were there to meet him to discuss a real estate deal. Some witnesses filmed the interaction, while other commented to news outlets that they had seen other non-black customers use the restroom or sit inside the Starbucks without ordering, yet were not asked to leave.

"Creating an environment that is both safe and welcoming for everyone is paramount for every store," Johnson said in a previous statement. "Regretfully, our practices and training led to a bad outcome—the basis for the call to the Philadelphia police department was wrong. Our store manager never intended for these men to be arrested and this should never have escalated as it did."

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