*Some 8000 Starbucks spots across the country will be closed this afternoon for racial sensitivity training after last month’s viral incident in Philly, when two black men were needlessly arrested for choosing not to order while waiting on the arrival of a business contact.
Employees will gather at the stores where they work to watch videos featuring Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz, board member Mellody Hobson and rapper/actor Common, among others, discussing what bias means and how to treat others respectfully, according to a video preview Starbucks posted online this week.
They also will do exercises in which they are asked to share stories of how they have experienced bias in their own lives.
“Expectations have to be managed,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, who is advising Starbucks pro bono on its antibias efforts. She told reporters Thursday that it is an “ambitious project.”
Part of the training is aimed at ensuring that the “third place” Starbucks says it provides between home and work is inclusive, executives say. “May 29 isn’t a solution, it’s a first step,” said Rossann Williams, Starbucks executive vice president for U.S. retail, in a letter to employees that the company cited online Wednesday.
The training and store closings are expected to set the company back about $12 million this afternoon. Starbucks wouldn’t disclose the cost, but a spokeswoman said, “we believe this is a critical investment in the long-term success of Starbucks” and that the company will continue to invest in this area.
Watch part of Starbucks’ training video below: