CEO: Star­bucks to train work­ers on ‘un­con­scious bias’

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Kris­ten De Groot and Joseph Pisani

PHILADEL­PHIA » Star­bucks wants to add train­ing for store man­agers on “un­con­scious bias,” CEO Kevin John­son said Mon­day, as ac­tivists held more protests at a Philadel­phia store where two black men were ar­rested when em­ploy­ees said they were tres­pass­ing.

John­son, who has called the ar­rests “rep­re­hen­si­ble,” ar­rived in Philadel­phia this week­end af­ter video of the ar­rests gained trac­tion on­line. He said he hopes to meet with the two men in the next cou­ple of days and apol­o­gize to them face-to-face.

“I’d like to have a di­a­logue with them and the op­por­tu­nity to lis­ten to them with com­pas­sion and em­pa­thy through the ex­pe­ri­ence they went through,” said John­son, who has been CEO about a year. Ste­wart Co­hen, the lawyer for the two men, said he hopes “some­thing pro­duc­tive for the com­mu­nity” can come out of their meet­ing with the com­pany.

The in­ci­dent is a ma­jor blow to Star­bucks’ im­age, since the com­pany has pro­moted its cof­fee shops as neigh­bor­hood hang­outs where any­one is wel­come. Af­ter a video of the ar­rests spread on­line, the hash­tag #Boy­cottS­tar­bucks trended on Twit­ter.

And on Mon­day, about two dozen pro­test­ers took over the Philadel­phia shop, chant­ing slo­gans like, “A whole lot of racism, a whole lot of crap, Star­bucks cof­fee is anti-black.” A Star­bucks re­gional vice pres­i­dent who at­tempted to talk to the pro­test­ers was shouted down.

“We don’t want this Star­bucks to make any money to­day. That’s our goal,” said Ab­dul-Aliy Muham­mad, one of the protest’s or­ga­niz­ers and co-founder of the Black and Brown Work­ers Col­lec­tive.

Over the week­end, de­mon­stra­tors called for the fir­ing of the em­ployee who con­tacted po­lice, who ar­rested the men on Thurs­day. Star­bucks did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest to con­firm a re­port that the man­ager who called po­lice had left the com­pany.

Of­fi­cials have said po­lice of­fi­cers were told the men had asked to use the store’s re­stroom but were de­nied be­cause they hadn’t bought any­thing and they re­fused to leave.

Video shows sev­eral po­lice talk­ing qui­etly with two black men seated at a ta­ble. Af­ter a few min­utes, of­fi­cers hand­cuff the men and lead them out­side as other cus­tomers say they weren’t do­ing any­thing wrong. A white man iden­ti­fied as real estate de­vel­oper An­drew Yaffe ar­rives and tells the of­fi­cers the two men were wait­ing for him. An of­fi­cer says the men were not com­ply­ing and were be­ing ar­rested for tres­pass­ing.

“Why would they be asked to leave?” Yaffe says. “Does any­body else think this is ridicu­lous? It’s ab­so­lute dis­crim­i­na­tion.”

A woman can be heard in the video say­ing “they didn’t do any­thing, I saw the en­tire thing.”

Po­lice haven’t re­leased the names of the men, who were later re­leased af­ter the district at­tor­ney’s of­fice said there was lack of ev­i­dence that a crime had been com­mit­ted.

John­son said the com­pany will en­sure that em­ployee guide­lines on when the po­lice should be called will be clar­i­fied.

Asked if the in­ci­dent was a case of racism, John­son re­sponded: “Star­bucks was built around the con­cept of a third place where we cre­ate a warm and wel­com­ing en­vi­ron­ment for all cus­tomers. What I do know is that did not hap­pen in this in­stance. And that is what we’re fo­cused on.”

Philadel­phia-born co­me­dian Kevin Hart had taken to Twit­ter on Mon­day to vent about the ar­rests, say­ing the com­pany failed to take ad­van­tage of an op­por­tu­nity to call out racial pro­fil­ing. He says the em­ployee who called po­lice should have been fired.

On Sun­day he tweeted “Our city is shin­ing bright like a di­a­mond right now. Please make this sit­u­a­tion right.”

Seat­tle-based Star­bucks had posted a state­ment on Twit­ter over the week­end about the ar­rests, fol­lowed by an apol­ogy from John­son.

“Ev­ery com­pany makes mis­takes, but great com­pa­nies are the ones that learn from those mis­takes and take ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tion,” John­son said Mon­day. “And that’s ex­actly what I in­tend to do. We’re re­view­ing all as­pects of this.”


De­mon­stra­tors oc­cupy the Star­bucks that has be­come the cen­ter of protests Mon­day in Philadel­phia. The CEO of Star­bucks ar­rived in Philadel­phia hop­ing to meet with two black men who were ar­rested when the cof­fee chain’s em­ploy­ees called 911 and said they were tres­pass­ing. Mean­while, pro­test­ers took over the shop Mon­day.

A plain­clothed po­lice of­fi­cer mans a po­si­tion be­hind the counter at the Star­bucks that has be­come the cen­ter of protests in Mon­day in Philadel­phia.

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