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Civil rights advisers hope Starbucks' anti-bias training sets example

29 May, 2018, 18:34 | Author: Sara Gill
  • READ MORE A new policy at Starbucks People can sit without buying anything

Starbucks will close more than 8,000 stores nationwide Tuesday to conduct diversity training, the next of many steps the company is taking to try to restore its tarnished image as a hangout where all are welcome. The mandatory sessions follow last month's controversial arrests of two black men in Philadelphia.

Starbucks will close around 8,000 of its stores across the US on Tuesday for sessions to educate staffers on unconscious bias and racism. Many of the Starbucks locations in airports, on college and private business campuses and within grocery and other retail stores will remain open for regular hours Tuesday. Schultz, CEO Kevin Johnson and musician and activist Common will serve as virtual guides.

During Starbucks' training today, Schultz said, employees will "be sharing life experiences, hearing from others, listening to experts, reflecting on the realities of bias in our society and talking about how all of us create public spaces where everyone feels like they belong - because they do". The half-day closure was announced after video of police arresting two black men in a Philadelphia Starbucks in April, caused outrage.

Analysts say Starbucks can ill afford the bad publicity at a time of growing competition in a coffee industry which has seen a number of rivals bought out or merged.

The training is meant to help Starbucks navigate the challenges of being the "third place" that its leaders have often spoken about - the place where people spend time outside of work and their home.


Alexis McGill Johnson, Perception's co-founder and executive director, said anti-bias training is about awareness. And now the company closing stores for racial sensitivity training.

In the Philadelphia incident, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson were asked to leave after one was denied access to the bathroom. If customers are disruptive, employees have been advised to step in.

Starbucks did not immediately respond to a request to clarify whether Tuesday's training will offer more advice or training to employees on how to maintain the new policy.

As part of the new policy, Starbucks wants its stores to be a warm and welcoming environment, allowing customers to gather and connect. The list of inappropriate behaviors includes smoking, using drugs or alcohol, sleeping or improperly using the restroom. They also will participate in discussion and problem-solving sessions on identifying and avoiding bias. If a Starbucks employee thinks the situation isn't safe, he or she should call the police.

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