PHILADELPHIA — Starbucks will close more than 8,000 U.S. stores for an afternoon next month to train employees after two black men were arrested while waiting at one of the coffee chain’s Philadelphia stores last week.
The “racial-bias education” training will occur on May 29 and be provided to nearly 175,000 employees, the company said in a statement Tuesday.
Starbucks’ roughly 6,000 licensed cafes — the ones in retail stores and airports — will remain open. Starbucks said it would make training materials available to the employees of those stores,
The announcement from the world’s biggest coffee company comes as it tries to cool tensions after the arrest of two black men at one of its Philadelphia cafes last week sparked accusations of racial profiling.
Protesters called for a boycott of the company, in what has become the biggest public relations test yet for CEO Kevin Johnson.
Johnson made a personal apology to the men in a private meeting Monday, a company spokeswoman confirmed. He also met with Philadelphia’s mayor and police commissioner.
The chief executive haspublicly apologized for what he called “reprehensible” circumstances that led to the arrest of the two men at a store in Philadelphia’s Center City district Thursday.
“I will fix this,” Johnson said in a video message.
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Separately, he told “Good Morning America” Monday that “what happened to those two gentlemen was wrong” and said the company was reviewing the actions of the store manager who had called police.
Rosalind Brewer, the company’s chief operating officer, talked about the company’s call for unconscious bias training for store managers in an interview with NPR and called the incident a “teachable moment for all of us.”
She said that as an African American executive with a 23-year-old son, she found the cellphone videos taken of the Thursday afternoon incident painful to watch.
“It would be easy for us to say that this was a one-employee situation, but I have to tell you, it’s time for us to, myself included, take personal responsibility here and do the best that we can to make sure we do everything we can,” Brewer said.
At least two cellphone videos captured the tense moment when at least six Philadelphia police officers stood over two seated black men, asking them to leave. One officer said that the men were not complying and were being arrested for trespassing.
One of the videos of the arrest rocketed across social media, with more than 9 million views by Monday morning.