Star­bucks to teach work­ers about ‘un­con­scious bias’

The Republican Herald - - NATION / WORLD - 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 af­ter em­ploy­ees said they were tres­pass­ing.

John­son, who has called the ar­rests “rep­re­hen­si­ble,” ar­rived in Philadel­phia this week­end af­ter video of the in­ci­dent gained trac­tion on­line. He said he hopes to meet with the two men in the next cou­ple of days and apol­o­gize 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 for about a year. Ste­wart Co­hen, the lawyer for the two men, said he hopes “some­thing pro­duc­tive for the com­mu­nity” can come out of such a meet­ing.

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 morn­ing, 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 an­tiblack.” 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 re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment about the em­ploy­ment sta­tus of the man­ager who called po­lice.

Of­fi­cials have said the 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 said 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.”

Philadel­phia Mayor Jim Ken­ney, who met with John­son on Mon­day, said the city will re­view its guide­lines on how to re­spond to fu­ture re­quests for po­lice as­sis­tance.

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

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 po­lice form a line in front of the Star­bucks that was at the cen­ter of a Black Lives Mat­ter protest on Sun­day. Two black men were ar­rested Thurs­day af­ter Star­bucks em­ploy­ees called po­lice to say the men were tres­pass­ing. The ar­rest prompted ac­cu­sa­tions of racism on so­cial me­dia. Star­bucks CEO Kevin John­son posted a lengthy state­ment Satur­day night, call­ing the sit­u­a­tion “dis­heart­en­ing” and that it led to a “rep­re­hen­si­ble” out­come.

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