Facing mounting pressure for the unwarranted arrest of two black men at a Philly café, Starbucks has announced that it will close all 8,000 of its stores next month to conduct a nationwide “racial-bias education” day.
The news arrived this afternoon via a full-on Starbucks press release, and in it company CEO Kevin Johnson is quoted saying he’s spent the last few days in Philadelphia “listening to the community, learning what we did wrong and the steps we need to take to fix it.” They’ve decided “one step in [that] journey” is closing all company-owned locations and their Seattle headquarters on the afternoon of May 29. “During that time,” the release says, “partners will go through a training program designed to address implicit bias, promote conscious inclusion, prevent discrimination, and ensure everyone inside a Starbucks store feels safe and welcome.”
Starbucks says this retraining will involve nearly 175,000 employees, and that moving forward, it will also be mandatory for all new hires. The company also recruited some experts in “confronting racial bias” to help develop the curriculum. The five individuals are Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson; NAACP Legal Defense Fund president Sherrilyn Ifill; Heather McGhee, president of the think tank Demos; former attorney general Eric Holder; and the Anti-Defamation League’s CEO Jonathan Greenblatt.
In a separate statement released by the LDF, Sherrilyn Ifill notes that black Americans “regularly face the indignities” of being asked to prepay for food or denied bathroom access, and that while Starbucks wants to stop customers from ever being discriminated against in these ways again, getting there “will take work.”