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‘In Crisis Mode’: Panick-Stricken Starbucks Closes 8000 Stores for an Afternoon of Racial Bias Training

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Demonstrators occupy the Starbucks outlet that has become the center of protests Monday in Philadelphia. Starbucks wants to add training for store managers on ‘unconscious bias,’ CEO Kevin Johnson said Monday, as activists held more protests at the Philadelphia store where two black men were arrested after employees said they were trespassing. | AP

Starbucks, trying to tamp down a racially charged uproar over the arrest of two black men at one of its stores in Philadelphia, plans to close more than 8,000 U.S. stores for several hours next month to conduct racial-bias training for its nearly 175,000 workers.

The announcement Tuesday comes after the arrests sparked protests and calls for a boycott on social media. Starbucks says the stores and corporate offices will be closed on the afternoon of May 29.

Starbucks, which once urged its employees to start conversations about race with customers, found itself through the looking glass: under fire for its treatment of black people.

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A Starbucks iced drink with a ‘Race Together’ sticker on it is shown ready for pickup at a Starbucks store in Seattle in 2015. Starbucks, trying to tamp down a racially charged uproar over the arrest of two black men at one of its stores in Philadelphia, plans to close more than 8,000 U.S. stores for several hours next month to conduct racial-bias training for nearly 175,000 workers. The announcement Tuesday comes after the arrests sparked protests and calls for a boycott on social media. | AP

The company reacted from a high level: Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said the arrests should not have happened and the company said he met with the two men. Starbucks also said the employee who called police no longer works at the store, but declined to give further details.

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The episode highlights the risks large corporations run when they tie their brands so closely to social messaging. In 2015, then-CEO Howard Schultz shrugged off the “Race Together” fiasco as a well-intentioned mistake and pressed on with his public efforts to engage in the debate over race in America. Johnson was scrambling to keep the Philadelphia incident from shattering the message Schultz was going for …. (read more)

via The Japan Times

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