Published: Tue, June 05, 2018
Business | By Tara Barton

Here's what Starbucks taught workers about bias

Here's what Starbucks taught workers about bias

She's worked at Starbucks for 14 years and had been considering starting to wear her hair natural, but it wasn't until Tuesday that she and her colleagues discussed the idea of doing so at work. "At least they are doing something", she said. When they refused to leave, an employee called 911 and they were charged for trespassing. The NAACP's Sherrilyn Ifill, who is one of Starbucks's advisors on its anti-bias training material, has previously noted that "this can't be a one-off". The "unconscious bias" is the byproduct of racist America, causing white people to treat blacks and other minorities badly, so the program is to raise awareness (instill guilt) to change behavior (even if nothing has been done).

Starbucks shares in the US were down 1.4 percent for the day at 2:30 p.m. EST (1830 GMT) Tuesday, erasing around $1.1 billion of its market value. Starbucks is sharing training content with licensed business partners to make it available to their employees at a later date.

Other large companies have also adopted racial bias training, albeit with less fanfare.

A woman reads a notice at a closing Starbucks store in Washington, the United States, on May 29, 2018.

"God bless you", a barista said after a customer sneezed.

On April 21, two black men were arrested at a Starbucks in Philadelphia after one of them was denied use of the bathroom. After the pair sat down to wait, the manager called the police. The video quickly went viral and spurred allegations of racial bias against the company.

That's because staff in all the outlets that the company owns in the US -more than 8,000 in total-are undergoing racial-bias training. While it was anti-bias training broadly, much of the content revolved around racism, specifically anti-black racism.

Starbucks' retail footprint in the U.S. is massive, as the map above illustrates.

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How do you foster an inclusive and aligned company culture?

"At Starbucks we are proud to be a third place - a place between home and work where everyone is welcome". The focal point for training will be to understand the racial bias and discrimination in open places all over the US. And Starbucks had to logistically make it happen, from rescheduling shifts to making sure kiosks and smaller locations had space to meet. "They have really embraced the magnitude of what they need to take on to do more than a crisis response".

This is where the training comes into action.

"At the end of the day, it is all in the attitude and belief of the individual employee", he said.

With training, a company must also look at representation including senior-level talent, Harris said. Johnson said the training will be an important step for future new hires, too.

"If it is actually genuine and not a PR move, it will be a good thing", said Devon Smith, a 31-year-old African American on L Street near the White House.

The training is also supposed to include a video featuring the rapper and artist Common. Tell us in the comments. Starbucks had $22.4 billion in revenue past year. McGhee said the volunteer advisers "set high standards for accountability" with the company and would not just "be a rubber stamp to validate their programming". Other companies are following in their footsteps.

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