Starbucks to close over 8,000 stores for anti-bias training

Mae Love
May 29, 2018

In the Philadelphia incident, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson were asked to leave after one was denied access to the bathroom.

Protesters gather outside a Starbucks in Philadelphia, April 15, 2018, where two black men were arrested Thursday after Starbucks employees called police to say the men were trespassing.

Research shows unconscious bias training isn't particularly effective. The last time the company did something similar was in 2008, when the struggling chain shut down all U.S. locations to retrain employees on improving the "Starbucks Experience" by boosting technical abilities and customer service - a decision that cost the chain $6 million. After the manager called 911, the men were arrested and held for hours.

Many retailers including Walmart and Target said they already offer some racial bias training.

As for her role in the training, Ifill said her goal was to ensure "that what they do undertake is rigorous and is likely to produce real results". But one expert says training of this kind can have the opposite effect if people feel judged.

A video previewing the training says it will include recorded remarks from Starbucks executives.

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Starbucks's workers will be taught about the history of the civil rights movement, and break off into small groups to figure out how bias might manifest in their behavior.

Perception executive director Alexis McGill Johnson told Associated Press that the aim of anti-bias training is not to "say you're a bad person because you have a stereotype about a group, but say this is why your brain may have these stereotypes". A video of the incident gained viral attention, causing a controversial discussion on race.

Their crime? They had asked to use the restroom without buying anything first. The curriculum was developed through collaboration with representatives from the Equal Justice Initiative, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Anti-Defamation League and other organizations.

Schultz called the events at the Philadelphia store "reprehensible" in his letter, and said the closures were an opportunity for the company's employees to reflect on internal biases and racism.

Training will be provided to almost 175,000 employees nationwide and added to the onboarding process for new hires.

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