Starbucks will be closing its stores nationwide on the afternoon of May 29 to conduct racial-bias education, the coffee chain announced Tuesday, after days of protests at a Philadelphia Starbucks store where an employee called for the arrest of two black men last Thursday.
The announcement follows four days of protests at the Philly location, with protesters calling on Starbucks to fire the worker who called the police on two black men who were waiting for a friend after being denied use of the store's bathroom. The employee left the company in a decision Starbucks called “mutual.”
The two men were denied access to the restroom because they hadn’t bought anything. When they refused to leave, reportedly because they were waiting for one of their friends to arrive, the employee called 911. The men were handcuffed and removed by five to seven police officers.
Video of the incident has amassed almost 10 million views on Twitter, and the coffee chain released a public apology. Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson met with the mayor and community leaders, then met both of the men earlier this week and apologized on behalf of the company, according to a press release.
“We have a situation – and the people at the center of it have come together with civility, common purpose and a willingness to listen and work towards a solution,” the release read.
Social media users have been using the hashtag #BoycottStarbucks since the incident came to light, and Philly's mayor, Jim Kenney, called it an example of “what racial discrimination looks like in 2018.”
“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,” Johnson said in a press release. “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.”
The more than 8,000 company-owned stores in the U.S. will be closed the afternoon of May 29 to provide training about implicit bias, conscious inclusion, and discrimination to the chain's nearly 175,000 employees.
“The company's founding values are based on humanity and inclusion,” executive chairman Howard Schultz said in a press release. “We will learn from our mistakes and reaffirm our commitment to creating a safe and welcoming environment for every customer.”
Cover image: Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson walks towards a meeting with Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and other officials Monday April 16, 2018, at Philadelphia City Hall. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma)