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Signs of trouble for Starbucks.
STORM BREWING

Starbucks is shutting 8,000 US stores on May 29 to conduct bias training

By Oliver Staley

Starbucks, embroiled in controversy over perceived racial profiling, will close more than 8,000 company-owned US stores for a day in May to conduct racial-bias training.

The coffee giant will instruct almost 175,000 workers in its stores and corporate offices, using a training program that will become part of the on-boarding process for new employees, the company said in a statement on its website today (April 17). The stores will close on the afternoon of Tuesday, May 29, for the training.

The announcement follows an uproar that began April 12 at a Starbucks location in Philadelphia, where two black men were asked to leave the store. After the men—who had yet to buy anything and said they were waiting for a friend—refused to leave, a manager called the police, and the men were arrested for trespassing. Protestors have since shut down the store, and both Starbucks’ CEO and its executive chairman traveled to Philadelphia in an effort to quell the storm.

It’s not the first time Starbucks has closed stores for a company-wide training initiative—in 2008, it closed its cafes for three hours to instruct employees on how to brew a better cup of coffee—but it is a measure of how seriously it’s taking the incident.

For a company that has staked out a reputation for embodying progressive values, the charges of racial bias stings. In an earlier statement, CEO Kevin Johnson said the employee’s training failed: “Regretfully, our practices and training led to a bad outcome—the basis for the call to the Philadelphia police department was wrong.”

After next month’s exercise, Starbucks says, it plans on making its training materials available to other companies.