April 17 (UPI) — All 8,000 Starbucks locations are scheduled to shut down one afternoon in May so that all employees may undergo racial-bias education, the company announced Tuesday.
The news comes as a Starbucks in Philadelphia has become the scene of daily protests over accusations of racism since last weekend. That’s when a video was released of police arresting two black men who refused to leave the coffee shop. They had been sitting inside the restaurant waiting for a friend without ordering anything and the manager called police.
“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,” Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said. “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 company said it would train nearly 175,000 employees and require all new employees to undergo the same training. The company-wide training was scheduled to happen the afternoon of May 29.
Starbucks said it was developing the training protocol with the assistance of representatives from the Equal Justice Initiative, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Demos, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and the Anti-Defamation League.
Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations said it was investigating other reports of misconduct at the Philadelphia Starbucks. Mayor Jim Kenney said the commission would “review the firm’s policies, guidelines and procedures, including whether Starbucks has written policies, whether the policies are enforced uniformly, and how much discretion is left to individual employees.”
“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,” Kenney said.