The training is being held in response to an incident last month in Philadelphia where two black men were waiting inside of a Starbucks to meet with a friend when an employee called police because they had not bought anything.
Tuesday's four-hour session will give workers a primer on the history of civil rights from the 1960s to present day. Employees will talk about their own experiences, and watch a film about bias. A sign at one store in Chicago says it's locking its doors at 2:30 p.m. and reopening on Wednesday, for instance. In addition to announcing the racial sensitivity training, Starbucks also overhauled its store policy to prevent similar incidents.
Analysts say Starbucks can ill afford the bad publicity at a time of growing competition in a coffee industry which has seen a number of rivals bought out or merged.
The Seattle-based coffeehouse chain said it consulted with both national and local experts to develop the curriculum for the training program, which will seek to help employees identify and overcome biases in the workplace.
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The training is one of several steps Starbucks is taking after two black men were arrested in a Starbucks in Philadelphia. A session can include personal reflections, she said, such as, "I was socialized to think about a group this way".
One afternoon wouldn't really be "moving the needle on the biases", especially with a company that has as many employees as Starbucks, he said. For example, if another white manager chooses to call the cops on a Black man for simply sitting in the store, would that employee be fired? That's because staff in all the outlets that the company owns in the USA -more than 8,000 in total-are undergoing racial-bias training. "And I think, unfortunately, that video for many of us was too familiar".
Training in unconscious, or implicit, bias is used by many corporations, police departments and other organizations.
The coffee giant says the session is the first step in a long-term process that will integrate further trainings and will take place around the world.
Training will be provided to almost 175,000 employees nationwide and added to the onboarding process for new hires.