In the response to the recent incident that embroiled Starbucks Corp. (NASDAQ: SBUX) in a social-media maelstrom, Starbucks will close more than 8,000 U.S. stores on the afternoon of May 29 to conduct anti-bias employee education, after concerns arose that some of the company’s front-line employees improperly treated black people.
The maelstrom starts from a customer’s video posted online this past weekend. In this video, several police officers came to arrest two black men at a Starbucks in Philadelphia, handcuffing them while customers told police the men weren’t doing anything wrong and asked why they were being arrested. The men were later released without being charged.
Meanwhile, a second video spread in recent days alleging that a Starbucks employee refused to give bathroom access to a black patron after providing it to a white patron a short time earlier
“It was clearly a circumstance in which there was a miscalculation of the scope of the problem at the very beginning,” said Jeremy Robinson-Leon, chief operating officer at Group Gordon, to Wall Street Journal. “Starbucks had to do something more significant” beyond an apology, he said.
Starbucks handles hiring and training for its company-owned stores, while licensed stores are operated by retailers or food-service companies—such as Target Corp. or Aramark —that handle hiring and training.
When stores are closed, employees will go through a training program designed to address potential unconscious racial bias among employees and help ensure that all customers feel welcome, Starbucks said. Following the training, it will share the related materials with its licensees. The company said it was developing the employee curriculum with civil-rights leaders and activists.