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Starbucks will close all U.S. stores on May 29 for 'racial-bias education'

Julia La Roche

Starbucks (SBUX) said it would close all of its U.S. stores on the afternoon of May 29 for racial-bias education for its employees, the company said in a statement.

The coffee giant has come under pressure following the arrest of two black men last Thursday in one of its Philadelphia stores. The store manager whose phone call resulted in the arrests has left the company.

Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson apologized over the weekend, calling the arrests “reprehensible” and offered to meet the two men involved to give a face-to-face apology.

“I’ve spent the last few days in Philadelphia with my leadership team listening to the community, learning what we did wrong and the steps we need to take to fix it,” Johnson said in a statement. “While this is not limited to Starbucks, we’re committed to being a part of the solution. Closing our stores for racial bias training is just one step in a journey that requires dedication from every level of our company and partnerships in our local communities.”

Founder and executive chairman Howard Schultz has also traveled to Philadelphia with other senior leadership to meet with community leaders and Starbucks employees.

“The company’s founding values are based on humanity and inclusion,” Schultz said. “We will learn from our mistakes and reaffirm our commitment to creating a safe and welcoming environment for every customer.”

On the afternoon of Tuesday, May 29, nearly 175,000 Starbucks employees from 8,000 stores and those working in the corporate office will go through training “designed to address implicit bias, promote conscious inclusion, prevent discrimination and ensure everyone inside a Starbucks store feels safe and welcome.”

The company said the curriculum will involve experts, including Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative; Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund; Heather McGhee, president of Demos; former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder; and Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League.

Going forward, this training will be part of the company’s onboarding process for new hires.

The only other time Starbucks closed all of its locations at once was in 2008 for espresso training.

Julia La Roche is a finance reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.

(Cover photo source: REUTERS/Mark Makela )