Starbucks will close all stores the afternoon of May 29 so all employees can undergo racial bias education led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt and other leaders.
“I’ve spent the last few days in Philadelphia with my leadership team listening to the community, learning what we did wrong and the steps we need to take to fix it,” CEO Kevin Johnson said in a statement. “While this is not limited to Starbucks, we’re committed to being a part of the solution. Closing our stores for racial bias training is just one step in a journey that requires dedication from every level of our company and partnerships in our local communities.”
The chain, with 28,000 locations, has been under fire following the controversial arrests of two black men who were waiting for a friend in a Philadelphia location.
Author and commentator Eric Schiffer, CEO of ReputationManagementConsultants.com, said the episode means “Starbucks’ reputation faces a frightening free-fall that will be crippling for the brand amongst many within the African American community and beyond. The arrest of the two men created a dangerous body blow to a brand that typically takes bows, not punches.”
The chain’s response has been robust.
“The company’s founding values are based on humanity and inclusion,” said executive chairman Howard Schultz, who has been in Philadelphia along with Johnson and other Starbucks brass, meeting with community leaders and Starbucks partners. “We will learn from our mistakes and reaffirm our commitment to creating a safe and welcoming environment for every customer.”
Joining the May 29 training will be Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and Demos president Heather McGhee.