Seattle-based coffeehouse chain Starbucks has made a move to try to and resolve the uproar over the arrest of two black men at one of its stores, announcing plans to close more than 8,000 US stores for several hours next month to conduct racial-bias training for its nearly 175,000 workers.
The announcement came after last week’s arrests in Philadelphia sparked protests and calls for a boycott. Two black men were arrested for “trespassing” while they were waiting for a friend in the store.
Starbucks said the stores and corporate offices will be closed on the afternoon of 29 May while it gives training to staff.
Starbucks’ chief executive, Kevin Johnson, condemned the arrests, calling them “reprehensible”, and said he wanted to apologize to the men face-to-face.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the company said it will also provide training materials for non-company workers at the roughly 6,000 licensed Starbucks cafes that will remain open in locations such as grocery stores and airports.
On 5/29, we’ll close US company-owned stores to conduct racial-bias training to address implicit bias & prevent dis… https://t.co/k7CjCSc8zK
— Starbucks Coffee (@Starbucks) 1523993723000
Starbucks has come under fire before. In 2015, the then CEO, Howard Schultz, launched a campaign in which baristas stuck labels that read “Race Together” on coffee cups to try to spark a dialogue about race.
The campaign caught fire on social media and was condemned for being superficial and ill-conceived. Schultz confessed he was surprised at the level of “visceral hate and contempt for the company, and for me personally” it provoked.