The world’s biggest coffee company Starbucks has announced that it will close all of its company-owned cafes in the United States for one afternoon on May 29 to educate employees about racial bias.
The announcement comes as the company tries to cool tensions following an incident in its Philadelphia store, in which two black men were arrested.
Starbucks said the training for its 175,000 employees will be developed with guidance from experts including former attorney general Eric Holder. It will also provide training materials for non-company workers at roughly 6,000 licensed Starbucks cafes that will remain open in locations such as grocery stores and airports.
“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,” Starbucks 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,” he added.
Johnson has apologized for the “reprehensible” arrests of the two men in Philadelphia on Thursday and took personal responsibility for the incident. The two black men were arrested at Starbucks after the store’s manager called police because they were sitting in the store without ordering anything. The two men said they were waiting for a friend.
Video showing their arrest went viral, sparking protests and calls for boycotts.
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 company added that the manager who had called the police is no longer working at that store.