Starbucks closes stores, asks workers to talk about race

Local News

Starbucks closed more than 8,000 stores nationwide Tuesday to conduct anti-bias training, the next of many steps the company is taking in an effort to restore its tarnished diversity-friendly image.

The coffee chain’s leaders reached out to bias training experts after the arrest of two black men at a Philadelphia Starbucks last month.

Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz says the company still aspires to be a place where everyone feels welcome. Schultz said the trainings will let employees share life experiences and reflect on society’s biases as well as talk about creating public spaces where everyone feels like they belong.

The plan has brought attention to the little-known world of “unconscious bias training” used by corporations, police departments and other organizations. It’s designed to get people to open up about implicit biases and stereotypes in encountering people of color, gender or other identities.

A video previewing the training says it will include recorded remarks from Starbucks executives as well as rapper and activist Common. From there, the company says, employees will “move into a real and honest exploration of bias.”

Gleb Tsipursky, assistant professor of history at Ohio State University, says using company executives and celebrities is not an effective way of training. “This is clearly a big PR stunt,” Tsipursky said. “It’s not really an effective strategy to address discrimination.”

“You need to talk about this as a common problem that all human beings experience, not something to be blameworthy or shamed, this is a common problem,” Tsipursky said. “We all experience it.”

Professor Tsipursky says employees will need to be convinced that the training is about more than the company’s image. “There needs to be a culture created where employees really buy-in to this idea, that it’s been beneficial to them as individuals, not simply for the company itself but for them as individuals to avoid discriminatory behaviors.”

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