Wednesday, October 27

Starbucks Closes One Afternoon for Employee Anti-Bias Training

Did you visit a Starbucks location during the afternoon of Tuesday, May 29? If you did, you probably found yourself locked out of the building and unable to get your daily venti caramel iced coffee with skim milk.

About 90% of U.S. households regularly indulge in a sweet, frozen treat. If your regular frozen treat is a Frappuccino and you weren’t able to get it last week, there is a reason. The reason why your Starbucks was closed, along with so many other locations throughout the country, was to host a racial bias education day. According to Time about 175,000 participated in the diversity training. This moment comes after a high-profile incident occurred in April in a Philadelphia Starbucks.

The incident involved a white store manager calling the police on two black men who were sitting in his store, but hadn’t purchased anything. The two men, Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson, were waiting inside the store for a third person to arrive for a business meeting. The men settled with the City of Philadelphia and received $1 each. They also received a promise from city officials to set up a scholarship program for young entrepreneurs.

The company planned to enact many policy changes during their day of meeting. A major change is that Starbucks will now allow people who haven’t bought anything to sit inside their store or use their bathroom.

So what was the day of learning actually like? Fast Company says the employees were put into small self-guided sessions. After the sessions, the employees were divided into groups and were asked many different questions. Some of these questions included: “When did you first become aware of your racial identity?” and “How do you choose to alter your communication style to avoid playing into stereotypes”?

Erin Martysz, a barista at an Escondido, California store spoke with Fast Company about her experience.

“It was surprisingly productive and I thought the information was carefully prepared and thoughtfully distributed,” Martysz said. “Overall I think everyone benefitted.”

During the afternoon, employees watched an eight-minute documentary called “Access to Public Spaces in America”. The film was created by award-winning documentarian Stanley Nelson who partnered up with the company to create the film.

While it was a productive day for many, some people still fear that the racial bias is going to happen again. These people felt that the anti-bias training won’t really do anything in the long run. Some of the employees felt this goes way beyond the scope of Starbucks. A man named Alassane spoke about his worry.

“This will happen again. If it doesn’t happen in Starbucks it will happen in Target or Walmart or a hospital or a hotel,” Alassane said.

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