WASHINGTON – Following public backlash against the world’s biggest coffee chain for the arrest of two black men waiting at one of the chain’s Philadelphia stores in April, Starbucks wants every employee to “think about this moment” as it prepares to shut down its stores nationwide for racial awareness training.
“Regardless of your station in life, skin color, gender, ethnic background, everyone is welcome at Starbucks,” the company’s executive chairman, Howard Schultz, said Thursday at an event in Washington, D.C.
Starbucks SBUX, -0.26% will close every store across in the U.S. on the afternoon of May 29 to address a “unconscious bias” within its stores.
Since the footage of the April 12 arrest went viral, Schultz said Starbucks has been “working diligently internally and with outside resources to create a curriculum of training to address an unconscious bias” of its employees.
Schultz called the store manager’s decision to call the police on the two African-American men, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, after one of the men asked to use the bathroom despite not being a customer, “a terrible decision.”
“We have a loose policy around you should be able to use the bathroom if you buy something, and it’s the judgement of the manager in individual stores,” Shultz said while speaking to the Atlantic Council.
But Schultz made it clear that the company does not want to become a public bathroom.
“We’re going to make sure we make the right decision 100% of the time and give people the key,” said Schultz.
The upcoming, countrywide shutdown of stores will mark the beginning of a new curriculum of education and training to address “how we see the world and how we can be better” and will be the “beginning of an entire transformation at Starbucks,” Schultz promised. The training will be in conjunction with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
Last week, the City of Philadelphia awarded the two men $1 each, and agreed to fund a grant program for high school students for aspiring entrepreneurs, the Washington Post reported. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross also apologized to Nelson and Robinson and said his initial remarks where he stood by his officers’ decision to arrest the men had made the situation worse.