Starbucks Canada closes 1,100 stores for race, bias training

Coffee giant tries to make stores more inclusive after black men arrested at Philadelphia location

Starbucks is closing about 1,100 Canadian locations for anti-bias training Monday afternoon in a bid to make its stores more inclusive after the April arrest of two black men at one of its Philadelphia locations.

The four-hour training sessions that begin at 3 p.m. involve sharing experiences, listening to experts, reflecting on the realities of bias in society and talking about how employees can create public spaces where everyone feels like they belong.

In a media sneak peek of the training, the Seattle-based company said the sessions will begin with a video message from Starbucks Canada president Michael Conway, where he notes that the exercises were triggered by a “very regretful event.” The April incident in Philadelphia — in which two men were arrested after a Starbucks employee called the police on them — prompted the company to close its 8,000 U.S. locations for training last month.

“You may think this does not relate to us in Canada, but it does,” Conway said in the video. “The world is changing and we are not immune to the complexities or biases and neither are our customers or our communities.”

Conway said Starbucks locations grapple with issues around homelessness, language barriers and ”Canadians that simply appear very different from one of us,” but he believes the training will “only strengthen our resolve to make sure every customer feels welcome every time.”

Following his introduction, employees will break into groups of between three and five people to go through a 68-page book of exercises.

The materials ask employees to discuss the first time they noticed their “racial identity,” “had a friend of a different race who regularly visited your home,” “felt distracted at work because of external events related to race,” and “went to work with your natural hair without comments or questions from others.”

READ MORE: Men arrested at Starbucks say they feared for their lives

READ MORE: Starbucks to give racial sensitivity training after viral arrest video

The booklet references biases that negatively impact African American customers, but also asks broad questions around inclusion and diversity. It does not include direct references to issues faced by customers and employees of other races, of Indigenous backgrounds or those identifying as LGBTQ or having a disability.

The workbook is supplemented with videos from Starbucks executives, including board members and founder Howard Schultz, rapper and diversity advocate Common and inclusion experts.

Tomee Elizabeth Sojourner-Campbell, a Toronto-based consultant focusing on human rights compliance, diversity and inclusion, reviewed the materials Starbucks provides its stores with and said she thought it should be more tailored to Canada because the country has its own history of anti-black racism and challenges faced by stores are not uniform throughout the country.

She also wanted to see more acknowledgment of not only race, but issues around appearance, perceptions around mobility and ability to pay for goods.

“I would have expected them to actually address issues related to consumer racial profiling,” said Sojourner-Campbell, noting that the term is not even included in the glossary or list of themes the workbooks have, but was at the heart of the incident in Philadelphia.

“That seems very odd to me… I think they could have directly responded to it with a series of scenarios about what to do if there is consumer racial profiling. Bias training only gets people to point A, understanding that they have some semblance of a bias.”

She chalked Starbucks’ training up as a “public relations response,” but said it is a good way for the company to take stock of what it happening in its stores.

“Do I think four hours and this commitment will prevent a future complaint about consumer racial profiling? It is unlikely,” she said. “The complaints are not driven by the intent of the business or the employee, but the experience of the individual.”

She said she expected that the training would create “the Starbucks effect,” where other companies assess how they can be more inclusive and consider measures like Starbucks.

In the wake of the Philadelphia incident, Starbucks said it is providing all locations with lists of ways they can access mental health, substance abuse and housing services and committing to ongoing education and development for staff.

It also promised to tackle the circumstances that led to the training.

“Whether a person makes a purchase or not, they are welcome in our spaces,” said chief operating officer Roz Brewer in training videos.

“This includes the use of restrooms, cafes and patios — regardless of whether a person makes a purchase, they would be considered a customer.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

U.S. college bribery scandal shines light on serious problem in Canada

Looking at the bigger picture of marginalization in universities

Mommy’s Inside Voice: The self-love struggle

Hats off to us babes. We are alive, and kickin’, despite everything that has fought for the opposite

Victoria doctor forced into early retirement as specialist moves into rental space

General practitioner says he can’t afford rising rents, even amidst doctor shortage

Three deemed heroes after fiery crash rescue on the Hump

Two people taken to hospital following head-on collision near Port Alberni

Five highlights in the 2019 federal budget

Latest budget includes a sprinkling of money for voters across a wide spectrum

Vancouver Island cougar might have been shot with bow-and-arrow

Conservation officer service looking for animal near Port Alice

BC Ferries looks for more feedback on 25-year plan for Swartz Bay

Some suggestions already under consideration include a cycling route, waterfront park

‘That’s a load of crap’: Dog poop conspiracy spreads in White Rock

Allegation picked up steam through a Facebook page run by a city councillor

Officer leads the flare in Saanich Police’s social media

Triangle dance latest addition to Saanich Police social media anthology

Facebook to overhaul ad targeting to prevent discrimination

The company is also paying about $5 million to cover plaintiffs’ legal fees and other costs

B.C. mosque part of open-house effort launched in wake of New Zealand shootings

The ‘Visit a Mosque’ campaign aims to combat Islamophobia

Explosives unit brought in after suspicious boxes left at B.C. RCMP detachment

Nanaimo RCMP issues all clear after packages were found on lawn earlier in the day

2019 BUDGET: As deficit grows, feds spend on job retraining, home incentives

Stronger economy last year delivered unexpected revenue bump of an extra $27.8 billion over six years

Most Read