Starbucks to close all U.S. units for racial-bias training

The half-day training, to be held May 29, follows widespread outrage after the arrest of two black men accused of trespassing by chain employees.

Starbucks will close its more than 8,000 company-owned U.S. stores on the afternoon of May 29 to conduct racial-bias education for all employees, the chain announced today.

The move comes days after the coffee chain stirred national controversy when two African-American men were arrested at a Philadelphia store after employees accused them of trespassing.

The arrest, captured on video that went viral, spurred widespread protests as well as a trending #BoycottStarbucks Twitter hashtag. Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson called the arrests a “reprehensible outcome.”

“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 today 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.”

The half-day training program will focus on implicit bias, conscious inclusion and discrimination prevention to “ensure everyone inside a Starbucks store feels safe and welcome,” according to a company statement.

The curriculum will be developed with help from representatives from the NAACP, Equal Justice Initiative, Anti-Defamation League and others, including former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

Once the training program is completed, Starbucks will make the educational materials available to other companies.

It is rare, but not unprecedented, for a chain to close all stores for staff training. In 2016, Chipotle closed all of its units during lunch service for a chainwide food safety meeting.

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