Starbucks closes for bias training: "It won't be a rubber stamp"

Starbucks closes for bias training:

Starbucks employees will receive sensitivity and bias training Tuesday, following the arrest of two black men who visited one of the chain's coffee shops last month. The mandatory sessions follow last month's controversial arrests of two black men in Philadelphia. The Seattle-based chain will shutter its company-owned locations and corporate offices within the United States to train its almost 175,000 employees. The stores are expected to close between 2-3 p.m. Most licensed stores, including those operated by hotels, grocery stores and airports, will operate normally.

Workers at each location will break into small groups to learn together.

Starbucks's apology came with a commitment to "making it right", executive chairman Howard Shultz said after the incident. The company will also share a new original film by filmmaker Stanley Nelson, who has more than 20 years' experience as a producer, director, and writer of documentary films and videos examining African American history and experiences.

The arrests sparked outrage across the country after a customer posted video of the men, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, who appeared to be cooperative as police officers took them into custody. It has since announced that anyone can use its restrooms, whether or not they make a purchase. From there, the company says, employees will "move into a real and honest exploration of bias".

"Our hope is that these learning sessions and discussions will make a difference within and beyond our stores", Starbucks executive vice president, U.S. Retail, Rossann Williams said.

The company has settled privately with the two men after the incident in a Philadelphia store on April 12 and will try to draw a line under the row with a day of workshops in traditionally slow afternoon hours which Wall Street analysts say will only cost it US$5-US$7 million in lost business. If customers are disruptive, employees are advised to step in.

As part of the new policy, Starbucks wants its stores to be a warm and welcoming environment, allowing customers to gather and connect.

The company offered specific guidelines in a document shared with employees. "Starbucks' employees will continue to operate in an environment that reinforces racial disparities", they wrote. The last time the company did something similar was in 2008, when the struggling chain shut down all United States locations to retrain employees on improving the "Starbucks Experience" by boosting technical abilities and customer service - a decision that cost the chain $6 million.

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