29 May 2018

Starbucks calls anti-bias training part of 'long-term journey'

10:46 pm on 29 May 2018

In the next few hours, the American coffee shop chain, Starbucks, is to close more than 8000 branches across the US for a four-hour anti-bias training session.

Protesters gather on April 16, 2018 for a protest at the Starbucks location in Center City Philadelphia.

Protesters gather on April 16, 2018 for a protest at the Starbucks location in Center City Philadelphia. Photo: AFP

Two months ago the manager at a Philadelphia branch called the police, accusing two black men of trespassing because they had not made purchases and refused to leave.

It turned out the men, who were detained for hours, were just waiting for a business meeting.

The arrests sparked protests and accusations of racial profiling at the coffee chain known for its diverse workforce and liberal stances on issues such as gay marriage.

Black leaders who are advising Starbucks Corp on its anti-bias training programme, hope it will reinvigorate decades-old efforts to ensure minorities get equal treatment in restaurants and stores, setting an example for other corporations.

Starbucks announced plans to shut stores and corporate offices to train 175,000 employees after the controversial 12 April arrests of Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson, and calls for a boycott of the coffee chain.

Starbucks said the first training "will serve as a step in a long-term journey to make Starbucks even more welcoming and safe for all."

It will include videos featuring Starbucks executives such as chief executive Kevin Johnson, executive chairman and co-founder Howard Schultz, board member Mellody Hobson, hip hop artist Common, and store managers.

Employees will also participate in discussion and problem-solving sessions on identifying and avoiding bias in every day situations.

Starbucks said the long-term programme was being designed and developed with input from researchers, social scientists, employees and other advisers.

Since the Philadelphia incident, Starbucks has said it will allow people to sit in its cafes and use its restrooms without making a purchase. It also said it has outlined procedures for dealing with customers who are disruptive, using tobacco, drugs or alcohol or sleeping in its cafes.

- BBC/Reuters

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