Starbucks staff undergo racial bias training

Liberal Senator Ian Macdonald during Question Time in the Senate chamber at Parliament House in Canberra Monday

Liberal Senator Ian Macdonald during Question Time in the Senate chamber at Parliament House in Canberra Monday

Starbucks is following through on its promise to close more than 8,000 company-owned stores in the US for racial bias and diversity training on Tuesday afternoon.

Starbucks will close around 8,000 of its stores across the US on Tuesday for sessions to educate staffers on unconscious bias and racism.

The plan covers only Starbucks-operated stores; almost all of the 7,000 Starbucks-licensed coffee shops - in places like supermarkets, hotels, and airports - are likely to remain open, the company says. Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson, Chairman Howard Schultz and musician and activist Common will serve as virtual guides. Employees will gather in small groups to discuss their personal experiences and watch a short film about racial bias.

Within two minutes after entering the store, the manager called 911 and police officers arrested the men for trespassing and walked them out of the store in handcuffs when they refused requests to leave.

Starbucks recently announced a new policy that allows anyone to sit in its cafes or use its restrooms, even if they don't buy anything.

According to a video previewing the Starbucks training, there will be recorded remarks from Starbucks executives and rapper/activist Common.

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A Starbucks spokesman said Tuesday's training is part of a bigger commitment to anti-bias education. "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".

She added, "We won't be a rubber stamp" that gives the all-clear on bias in stores and other locations.

"Our hope is that these learning sessions and discussions will make a difference within and beyond our stores". Social scientists have said these kinds of systematic and structural changes can help make lasting changes and ensure similar instances of racial bias seldom occur at the retail coffee chain.

To prevent discrimination in stores, more than 8,000 locations will be closed for three to four hours Tuesday afternoon for staff training.

The company offered specific guidelines in a document shared with workers. Starbucks is asking customers to behave in a way that "maintains a warm and welcoming environment". Roughly 175,000 Starbucks employees will participate. It also suggests that they consult colleagues to see if they agree the person is being disruptive. If a Starbucks employee thinks the situation isn't safe, he or she should call the police.

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