Starbucks Corp announced on Tuesday that it will close 8,000 company-owned US cafes for the afternoon on May 29 in order to provide racial-bias training for its employees.
About 175,000 people working at stores across the country, as well as staff at the firm’s Seattle headquarters, will receive the training.
The coffee chain said it will also provide training materials for non-company workers at the roughly 6,000 licensed Starbucks cafes that will remain open in locations such as grocery stores and airports, Reuters reports.
The racial tolerance training for employees comes as the firm has faced protests and boycott calls after an incident last week that saw two black men getting arrested while they waited at a Philadelphia Starbucks outlet.
In that incident that took place on April 12, the Philadelphia store employees were accused of racial profiling as they ordered two men — who had asked to use the restroom without ordering anything — to leave.
When the black men — who said they were waiting to meet up with a business associate — refused to leave, police were called in, leading to arrests on charges of trespassing.
A video of the arrests went viral online and sparked calls for a boycott of the coffee chain, prompting the company to undertake measures to contain the fallout.
The controversy was seen as the biggest public relations test yet for Starbucks’ CEO Kevin Johnson, who already was fighting to boost traffic to stores.
“While this is not limited to Starbucks, we’re committed to being a part of the solution,” said Johnson, a former technology executive who took the helm about a year ago.
The CEO has apologized for the “reprehensible” arrests of the two men in Philadelphia and took personal responsibility for the incident, which was captured in a customer video.
Starbucks attorneys said Johnson and the men, who were released without charges, have “engaged in constructive discussions about this issue as well as what is happening in communities across the country.”
The store manager, whose call to Philadelphia police led to the men’s arrests, is no longer working for Starbucks.
Philadelphia’s police commissioner defended the arrests, saying his officers had to act after Starbucks employees told them the pair was trespassing.
– Contact us at [email protected]