Starbucks accused of offering ‘too little too latte’ after calling police on black customers
Starbucks will close 8,000 company-owned US cafes for the afternoon on May 29 to train nearly 175,000 workers on how to prevent racial discrimination.
- Video of arrests of two black men in a Starbucks store went viral
- Starbucks CEO said arrests were “reprehensible”
- Protesters have been calling for a boycott of the coffee chain
The announcement from the world’s biggest coffee company comes as it tries to cool tensions after the arrest of two black men at one of its Philadelphia cafes last week sparked accusations of racial profiling at the chain.
Protesters have called for a boycott of the company, in what has become the biggest test yet for chief executive Kevin Johnson, who took the helm about a year ago.
“While this is not limited to Starbucks, we’re committed to being a part of the solution,” said Mr Johnson, who has apologised for the “reprehensible” arrests of the two men and taken responsibility for the incident.
Lawyers for the company said Mr Johnson and the two men involved have “engaged in constructive discussions about this issue as well as what is happening in communities across the country”.
Video that went viral over the weekend showed the two black men being arrested by police who were called by an employee.
Officials have said police 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.
“I watched the video, which was hard to watch,” Mr Johnson said.
“That is not what Starbucks is about. That is not representative of our mission, our values and our guiding principles.”
A Starbucks spokeswoman said on Tuesday (local time) that the employee no longer works at the store, but declined to give further details.
Race relations proves challenging for Starbucks
While Starbucks has deftly navigated thorny issues such as gay marriage, gun control and Congressional gridlock, US race relations have proven more challenging.
Its 2015 “Race Together” campaign to foster a conversation on the topic following the high-profile police shootings of several unarmed black men stirred an intense social media backlash.
Starbucks, with more than 28,000 stores worldwide, has set its own high bar, promoting itself as a company that stands for more than just profits.
Last month, the company claimed it had achieved 100 per cent pay equity across gender and race for all its US employees and committed to doing the same for its overseas operations, an initiative publicly backed by equality activist Billie Jean King.
The company also touts the diversity of its workforce, saying minorities comprise more than 40 per cent of its employees in the US.
In 2016, Starbucks promised to invest in 15 “underserved” communities across the country, trying to counter an image of a company catering to a mostly white clientele.
One of those stores opened in Ferguson, Missouri, the scene of the 2014 protests that erupted following the police shooting of Michael Brown, one of several such killings that moved former CEO Howard Schultz to launch the Race Together campaign.