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, who had been refused permission to use the washroom at a Starbucks in Philadelphia.
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 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.”
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.
They note the company has changed some of its policies, including providing all locations with lists of ways they can access mental health, substance abuse and housing services and a commitment to ongoing education and development for staff.
They also reference and reinforce the company’s promise to tackle the circumstances that led to the training.
“Whether a person makes a purchase or not, they are welcome in our spaces,” chief operating officer Roz Brewer in the videos.
“This includes the use of restrooms, cafes and patios — regardless of whether a person makes a purchase, they would be considered a customer.”