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

VIDEO: Scouts in Langley learn how to communicate during emergencies

Weekend event at Camp McLean part of worldwide Jamboree On The Air and Jamboree On The Internet

ELECTION 18: Langley Township, you chose Jack Froese for mayor

Township voters went with a familiar face, handing incumbent a third term as mayor

Mayoral results from across B.C.

Voters in 162 municipalities in B.C. set to elect mayor, council, school board and more

Who won and who didn’t in the Lower Mainland votes

A look at the region’s mayoral races, starting with Doug McCallum coming back to win in Surrey

Halloween on horseback

Langley riders club celebrates the season

Tommy Chong says cannabis legalization makes him proud to be a Canadian

Legendary marijuana advocate and comedian celebrates cultural milestone at Kelowna event

Fraser Valley man dead after head on crash in Okanagan

Accident occurred at about 7:35 a.m.

Newly-elected Lower Mainland mayor won’t drink his city’s tap water

White Rock’s Darryl Walker is concerned about its quality

Kennedy Stewart challenged with building bridges as mayor of Vancouver: expert

The former NDP MP, who ran as an Independent, will lead 10 councillors divided across four parties

B.C. Youtuber to seal himself ‘in a jar’ to demonstrate impacts of climate change

Kurtis Baute wants to see how long he can last in a 1,000 cubic foot, air-tight greenhouse

One of Taiwan’s fastest trains derails, killing at least 18

The train was carrying more than 360 people

Scheer marks one-year countdown to federal election with campaign-style speech

Conservative Leader insists that it will be Justin Trudeau who ‘makes it personal’

Canada Post union announces rotating strikes in four Canadian cities

Mail will still be delivered but it will be delayed

Vancouver drag queens receive royal treatment during Kootenay Pride

Vancouver drag queens discuss the importance of Pride and growing acceptance of LGBTQ community

Most Read