Starbucks to close 8,000 U.S. stores for racial tolerance training
(Adds reaction to announcement, diversity at company)
By Lisa Baertlein
April 17 (Reuters) - Starbucks Corp will close
8,000 company-owned U.S. cafes for the afternoon on May 29 so
175,000 employees can undergo racial tolerance training in
response to protests and calls for boycotts after the arrest of
two black men waiting in a Philadelphia store.
The company said in the Tuesday announcement that it will
also provide training materials for non-company workers at the
roughly 6,000 licensed Starbucks cafes that will remain open in
locations such as grocery stores and airports.
The announcement from world's biggest coffee company comes
as it tries to cool tensions after the Philadelphia incident
last week sparked accusations of racial profiling at the chain,
which is the subject of a boycott campaign on social media.
The controversy is the biggest public relations test yet for
new Starbucks Chief Executive Kevin Johnson, who already was
fighting to boost traffic to Starbucks amid competition from
coffee sellers ranging from hipster cafes to fast-food chains
and convenience stores.
"While this is not limited to Starbucks, we're committed to
being a part of the solution," said Johnson, a former technology
executive who took the helm about a year ago.
Even if the threatened boycott does not materialize, the
8,000 temporary store closures will almost certainly have an
impact on sales. Starbucks did not say how many hours the stores
would be shuttered on May 29, but the afternoon is the slowest
time for Starbucks' business.
Starbucks is one of the most high-profile and beloved brands
in the world and its long-time CEO Howard Schultz was not one to
shy away from difficult conversations over thorny issues such as
gay marriage, gun control and Congressional gridlock.
However U.S. race relations have proven more challenging,
even for a company that touts its diverse workforce --
minorities account for 18 percent of Starbucks executives with
the title of senior vice president or higher and 43 percent of
For example, the company's 2015 "Race Together" campaign to
foster a conversation on the topic following the high-profile
police shootings of several unarmed black men stirred an intense
social media backlash.
Johnson has apologized for the "reprehensible" arrests of
the two men in Philadelphia on Thursday and took personal
responsibility for the incident, which was captured in a
customer video that was shared widely.
Starbucks attorneys said Johnson and the men, who were
released without charges, have "engaged in constructive
discussions about this issue as well as what is happening in
communities across the country."
The manager, whose call to Philadelphia police led to the
men's arrests, is no longer working for Starbucks.
Philadelphia's police commissioner defended the arrests,
saying his officers had to act after Starbucks employees told
them the pair were trespassing.
"It's good that Starbucks is giving all staff race trainings
on May 29. But let's not lose sight of the real problem which is
police accountability," Tiffany Dena Loftin, director of the
youth and college division at NAACP, told Reuters
Shares in Starbucks closed up 0.7 percent at $59.83 on
Tuesday and are relatively unchanged in the week since the
(Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by Lisa
First Published: 2018-04-17 20:03:57
Updated 2018-04-17 23:57:11
© 2018 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved. Reuters content is the intellectual property of Thomson Reuters or its third party content providers. Any copying, republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Thomson Reuters. Thomson Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. "Reuters" and the Reuters Logo are trademarks of Thomson Reuters and its affiliated companies.