Starbucks announced this week that it will close around 8,000 company-owned stores on May 29th to train their near-175,000 employees in racial tolerance training after two black men were arrested at a Philadelphia store, in response to the mass protest and calls for boycotts the company began facing.
In their announcement Tuesday, they said they’ll also provide training material for all non-company staff at the nearly 6,000 Starbuck franchises that will not be shut down during this period.
“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,” Kevin Johnson, CEO of Starbucks, said in a statement.
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.”
“We will learn from our mistakes and reaffirm our commitment to creating a safe and welcoming environment for every customer,” Howard Schultz, executive chairman for the brand, said in a statement.
As reported by NY Times:
The two men were arrested after asking to use the restroom at a Starbucks in Philadelphia. An employee refused the request because the men had not bought anything, according to officials. The men sat down and were asked to leave, and an employee eventually called the police.
The ensuing scene was recorded in a video that has been viewed more than 10 million times on Twitter. In it, police officers appear to handcuff both men, as a third man, Andrew Yaffe, confronts them.
“But what did they do? What did they do? Someone tell me what they did,” Mr. Yaffe asks.
The arrests prompted a hashtag on social media, #BoycottStarbucks, and protests at the store, in Philadelphia’s Center City. Videos posted online show protesters chanting and holding up signs.
Two days after the episode, Starbucks apologized, and Mr. Johnson called the situation a “reprehensible outcome.”
He pledged to make “any necessary changes to our practices that would help prevent such an occurrence from ever happening again.”
The decision to shut all its domestic stores and provide training underscores the damage done to Starbucks’s reputation for being a socially responsible company, one that sells fair-trade coffee and promotes its stores as a meeting place. In 2015, the company was widely mocked for instructing employees to write “Race Together” on its coffee cups.