Canadian Starbucks coffee shops will be closed for several hours on Monday, as staff take part in what the company is calling a “learning session on race, bias, and inclusion,” following the unprovoked arrest of two young Black men at a Philadelphia store.
“The reprehensible event in Philadelphia prompted us to reflect, and led to this day. But this isn’t just about the events of Philadelphia, or about race, or about social challenges in America. This is about humanity,” Starbucks Coffee Canada president Michael Conway wrote in an open letter that the company said would be sent to customers on Monday.
The 1,100 Canadian stores will close at 3 p.m., according the letter, and the training materials will be available online.
The race-and-bias training is in response to public outcry and protests, after a video of the arrest of Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson, both 23, was made public. The company’s 8,000 U.S. stores closed for a few hours in late May, so the roughly 175,000 employees could undergo training. Company executives have been uniformly describing the move as part of a journey, designed to ensure that going forward everybody feels welcome in Starbucks stores.
Robinson and Nelson had gone to the Starbucks in mid-April to discuss a real estate deal. They asked to use the bathroom and were told it was for customers, so they sat down. Shortly after, a manager approached them and asked if they wanted to buy drinks and they declined, the New York Times reported, noting that 911 records showed that police were called about two minutes after the men entered the store. Starbucks settled with the two men for an undisclosed amount and city officials pledged to create a $200,000 (U.S.) program for young entrepreneurs.