Local Starbucks stores included in racial bias training


Photo credit: Quin Kelley

Starbucks says it will close its 8,000 company-owned stores in the United States for one afternoon next month to educate employees about racial bias. The closing of these stores is the company’s response to criticism after two black men were arrested while awaiting the arrival of a friend at one of the coffee chain’s Philadelphia stores last week.

It was released in a statement Tuesday that the “racial-bias education” training is scheduled for May 29 for nearly 175,000 employees nationwide. This includes a handful of Starbucks stores in Tallahassee.

A video that has gone viral of the two men getting arrested and escorted from the Philadelphia Starbucks has sparked a number of protests lasting days in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia police have officially released the recording of the phone call made to them by the Starbucks employee that led to the arrest of the men involved.

In the recording, a woman is heard saying, "Hi, I have two gentlemen in my cafe that are refusing to make a purchase or leave." She gives the address of the Starbucks store, and the entire call lasts less than 30 seconds.

Starbucks said Tuesday that the employee who made the call no longer works at the store but declined to give details.

Kathryn Swindle, an employee at the Starbucks on North Monroe Street in Tallahassee, agrees with the decision that the training should happen. She even thinks that it should be considered to be a monthly requirement.

“Honestly this is sad because we’re taught in our initial training to treat customers with the upmost respect, and to never treat anyone different but instead all the same. Maybe instead of doing annual training we should make it monthly,” said Swindle.

Her co-worker, Casey Bell, said the incident in Philadelphia should never have happened.

" I think that its sad that we're still dealing with racial discrimination in today’s age especially when Starbucks creates such an open and welcoming environment. It's known that our customers sometimes come to our establishments sometimes just to hang out, or just to study,” he said. “Sometimes they make a purchase immediately and sometimes they don't until they're about to leave and that’s fine with us because we love to have an environment where all customers feel like they can be comfortable.”

Starbucks said the curriculum will focus on how employees can recognize and address their own biases to prevent future discrimination. While racial profiling isn’t something that’s limited to just Starbucks, many feel as though the steps being taken are the right ones.

Amber Howard, a sociology student at Florida A&M University, said, “I really appreciate the way that the company and mainly the CEO is handling the situation. I like the fact that he sees the issue and is doing everything in his power to fix it. Most big companies would just sweep it under the rug.”

A personal apology by Starbucks chief executive Kevin Johnson was issued to the men in a private meeting Monday. Also, Johnson has met with the city of Philadelphia’s city commissioners and mayor and is working closely with them.

Tanner Burges, a regular Starbucks customer, says that staff at any business should be paying attention to all of what’s going on surrounding the Starbucks climate, and to take notes of what not to do.

“I think that any establishment should carry the same mindset that CEO Johnson has. You have to treat people with the upmost respect always, and make them feel wanted,” said Burges.