Friday 6 December, 2019

Starbucks to close US stores for racial-bias training

(Image: AP: Protesters gather outside a Starbucks in Philadelphia on 15 April 2018)

(Image: AP: Protesters gather outside a Starbucks in Philadelphia on 15 April 2018)

Starbucks says it will close more than 8,000 US stores for several hours next month to conduct racial-bias training for nearly 175,000 workers, amid a racially-charged uproar over the arrest of two black men at one of its stores in Philadelphia.

The announcement on Tuesday comes after the arrests sparked protests and calls for a boycott on social media. A video shows police talking with two black men seated at a table. After a few minutes, officers handcuff the men and lead them outside as other customers say they weren't doing anything wrong. Philadelphia-area media said the two were waiting for a friend.

Starbucks has since found itself under fire for its treatment of black people, and top executives have reacted swiftly. Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson called the arrests "reprehensible" and said he wanted to apologise to the two men face-to-face.

The company and a lawyer for the two men said they did meet, and Johnson delivered the apology. Starbucks also said the employee who called police no longer works at the store, but declined to give details.

Johnson also promised to revamp store management training to include "unconscious-bias" education. Starbucks said its US company-owned stores and corporate offices will be closed on the afternoon of 29 May for the training, which will eventually be incorporated into the instruction process for all newly-hired employees.

Starbucks said the curriculum for the training would be developed with input from several experts, including civil rights leaders and former US Attorney General Eric Holder.  

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