Starbucks is closing more than 8,000 stores Tuesday afternoon to provide anti-bias training for its employees after two black men were arrested for trespassing at one of the coffee chain’s sites in Philadelphia last month.
The arrests sparked outrage across the country after a customer posted video of the men, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, who appeared to be cooperative as police officers took them into custody.
Their crime? They had asked to use the restroom without buying anything first.
The men said they had gone to the Starbucks for a business meeting and were waiting for a third person to arrive. Nelson asked to use the restroom and was told they were opened only for paying customers, he said.
The company’s chief executive, Kevin Johnson, flew to Philadelphia to meet with Nelson and Robinson, who later reached a settlement with Starbucks for an undisclosed sum. The pair will also receive free tuition for an online program created by Starbucks for its employees.
In addition, they settled with the city of Philadelphia for a symbolic $1 each and a promise that a $200,000 fund will be established to promote entrepreneurship among high school students.
The day after meeting with the two men, Johnson announced that Starbucks would close its stores on May 29 to conduct anti-bias training.
“While this is not limited to Starbucks, we’re committed to being a part of the solution,” Johnson said. “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.”
Last week the company released a preview of the program it will be carrying out today. Rossann Williams, vice president for U.S. retail, said the full curriculum would be available after the training sessions.
“Our hope is that these learning sessions and discussions will make a difference within and beyond our stores,” Williams said, adding: “May 29 isn’t a solution, it’s a first step. By educating ourselves on understanding bias and how it affects our lives and the lives of the people we encounter and serve, we renew our commitment to making the third place welcoming and safe for everyone.”
Since the Philadelphia incident, the company has revised its policy about who can sit in its stores and use its restrooms. Now anyone may use the facilities whether they buy anything or not.