Starbucks to close 8,000 stores to give staff


Starbucks said today it will close more than 8,000 company-owned stores across the nation for one afternoon to train its staff on how to avoid “racial bias” after the arrest of two black men at one of its Philadelphia shops, an incident the coffee giant’s CEO called “reprehensible.”

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The training is scheduled for the afternoon of May 29 and will be geared toward “preventing discrimination in our stores,” Starbucks said.

Nearly 170,000 Starbucks employees are expected to go through the training, which will become part of the onboarding process for new workers, the company said in a statement.

“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,” Kevin Johnson, Starbucks chief executive officer, said in a statement.

“While this is not limited to Starbucks, we’re committed to being a part of the solution,” Johnson said. “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.”

The announcement came as the city of Philadelphia has launched an investigation into additional “informal complaints” at a downtown Starbucks shop where witnesses said two black men were arrested for doing nothing more than sitting at a table.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement that the city’s Commission on Human Relations will look into other reported instances at the Centre City area shop.

“The PCHR has received informal complaints about the specific Starbucks location since the matter arose,” the commission said in a statement Tuesday. “Any information regarding these complaints are part of our current investigation, and thus are deemed confidential.”

Meanwhile, Kevin Johnson, the coffee giant’s chief executive officer, met on Monday with the two men who were removed from the Starbucks after a manager called the cops on Thursday to report they were trespassing and refusing requests to leave the establishment.

Mark Makela /Press24 News
Police officers monitor activity outside as protestors demonstrate inside a Center City Starbucks, where two black men were arrested, in Philadelphia, April 16, 2018.

Starbucks told ABC News on Monday that the manager, who has not been identified, no longer works for the company.

In an interview with ABC New’s “Good Morning America” Monday morning, Johnson said he wanted to meet the men and apologize for the “reprehensible” ordeal they went through. He said it “was completely inappropriate to engage the police” in the incident.

The two men at the center of the controversy have yet to be identified or speak publicly about what happened to them at the Starbucks, where protesters have staged demonstrations the last two days that included sit-ins inside the shop.

Mayor Kenney said the city Commission on Human Relations “will be working to better understand the circumstances that led to this incident and additional reports that have come to their attention about this specific location.”

Neither Kenny or a spokeswoman for the Commission on Human Relations would offer details of the other incidents at the Starbucks shop in question.

PHOTO: Demonstrators occupy the Starbucks that has become the center of protests Monday, April 16, 2018, in Philadelphia.Jacqueline Larma/AP
Demonstrators occupy the Starbucks that has become the center of protests Monday, April 16, 2018, in Philadelphia.

The arrests of the men were captured on video and tweeted by Melissa DePino, a 50-year-old mother of two who told ABC News she has vowed not to patronize Starbucks again. The video has since been viewed millions of times.

DePino said the men were doing nothing more than sitting at a table when police officers entered the shop, put them in handcuffs and hauled them away.

“It was humiliating for those guys,” DePino said. “They were completely minding their own business.”

But Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross said officers responded to a 911 call of the men trespassing and refusing the requests from employees to leave after being told they couldn’t use the restroom without buying something.

PHOTO: CEO of Starbucks, Kevin Johnson speaks to Good Morning America, April 16, 2018.ABC News
CEO of Starbucks, Kevin Johnson speaks to “Good Morning America,” April 16, 2018.

Ross said the men were arrested when they refused to budge after police “politely” asked them several times to leave.

“So the police get there and they are confronted by the same type of attitude and repeatedly are told that they are not leaving. In fact, there is some alleged rhetoric about ‘you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re a $45,000-a-year employee’ or something to that regard,” Ross said in a video statement Saturday.

The men were later released after Starbucks officials refused to press charges.

The Philadelphia Police Department on Tuesday said it did not have a new comment beyond Ross’ video statement.

Kenney, meanwhile, released an earlier statement saying the incident “appears to exemplify what racial discrimination looks like in 2018.”

The mayor said he met with Johnson and Rosalind Brewer, Starbucks’s chief operating officer, on Monday to discuss the controversy.

“I believe Starbucks will cooperate fully with our probes of the matter, particularly the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations’ review of Starbucks’ policies,” Kenny said in his statement. “All parties agree that the outcome of this incident was extremely unfortunate and that’s why we are reviewing the incident seriously.

PHOTO: A plain-clothed police officer mans a position behind the counter at the Starbucks that has become the center of protests, April 16, 2018, in Philadelphia.Jacqueline Larma/AP
A plain-clothed police officer mans a position behind the counter at the Starbucks that has become the center of protests, April 16, 2018, in Philadelphia.

“This is not just a Starbucks issue. This is a societal issue. People can react differently to others based on skin color, and that is wrong. We have work to do, and we need to do so productively.”

He said the Commission on Human Relations will also review Starbucks’ “policies, guidelines and procedures” and collect information on the demographics of the company’s workforce and management.

In his interview on GMA, Johnson said he will order managers of Starbucks’ stores to undergo training on how to spot “unconscious bias.”

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