Starbucks is closing its more than 8,000 U.S. stores for a few hours Tuesday for anti-bias training, weeks after police arrested two African-American men in one of the coffee chain’s locations in the northeastern city of Philadelphia for allegedly trespassing.
The coffee chain's executives apologized for the April 14 arrests of Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson and contacted activists and experts in bias training to develop a curriculum for its 175,000 employees.
The incident has raised the awareness of "unconscious bias training," which police departments, companies and other organizations use to help address racism in the workplace.
An alliance of researchers called the Perception Institute, which is consulting with Starbucks, says implicit biases are attitudes or stereotypes toward people without being conscious of it. The training sessions are intended to encourage workers to open up about implicit biases toward people of color, gender or other identities.
The curriculum used in the sessions was developed with input from the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Perception Institute and other social advocacy organizations.
The sessions feature recorded remarks from executives, a short documentary film and small group conversations during which workers will have "a real an honest exploration of bias."
In the Philadelphia incident, an employee asked Nelson and Robinson to leave after not buying anything and being denied access to the restroom. They were arrested minutes after sitting down for an intended business meeting. Their arrests were recorded on cellphones and went viral.
Nelson and Robinson reached an agreement with Starbucks for an undisclosed amount of money and offers of a free education. They also accepted from the city of Philadelphia a symbolic $1 each and a promise to launch a $200,000 program for young entrepreneurs.
Since their arrests, Starbucks has announced anyone can use its restrooms even if they are not buying anything.