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Starbucks to temporarily close U.S. stores for racial-bias education

On the afternoon of May 29, Starbucks will close all of its company-owned U.S. stores and corporate headquarters for a training program designed to address racial bias.

More than 8,000 stores will close for the program, which will also focus on promoting conscious inclusion and preventing discrimination.

Nearly 175,000 employees will receive the training, which will also become part of Starbucks onboarding process.

The initiative comes amid the uproar that has followed the arrest of two African-American men at a Starbucks store in Philadelphia last week. The men, who were waiting for a friend, asked to use the restroom and were told by an employee it was only for paying customers. When they then sat in the store without ordering anything, the manager called police, and the men were arrested for trespassing. (No charges were filed.) The issue sparked accusations of racial profiling.

“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,” said Kevin Johnson, CEO, Starbucks. “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.”

Starbucks said the training program will be developed with guidance from experts, including former Attorney General Eric Holder, Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, and Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League.

“The company’s founding values are based on humanity and inclusion,” said Starbucks’ executive chairman Howard Schultz, who joined CEO Kevin Johnson and other company leaders in Philadelphia to meet with community leaders and Starbucks partners. “We will learn from our mistakes and reaffirm our commitment to creating a safe and welcoming environment for every customer.”

Starbucks said it has also started a review of its training and practices to make reforms “where necessary” to ensure its stores provide “a safe and inclusive environment for our customers and partners.” Once completed, Starbucks said it will make the education materials available to other companies, including its licensee partners, for use with their employees and leadership.
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