CEO: Starbucks to train workers on ‘unconscious bias’

Camille Hymes, center, regional vice president of Mid-Atlantic operations at Starbucks Coffee Company, speaks with Asa Khalif, of Black Lives Matter, right, after protesters entered the coffee shop, Sunday, April 15, 2018, demanding the firing of the manager who called police resulting in the arrest of two black men on Thursday. The arrests were captured on video that quickly gained traction on social media. (Mark Bryant/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

Starbucks wants to add training for store managers on “unconscious bias,” CEO Kevin Johnson, as activists held more protests at a Philadelphia store where two Black men were arrested when employees said they were trespassing.

Johnson, who has called the arrests “reprehensible,” recently arrived in Philadelphia after video of the arrests gained traction online. He said he hopes to meet with the two men in the next couple of days and apologize to them face-to-face.

“I’d like to have a dialogue with them and the opportunity to listen to them with compassion and empathy through the experience they went through,” said Johnson, who has been CEO about a year. A lawyer for the two men who were arrested didn’t immediately return a call for comment.

The incident is a major blow to Starbucks’ image, since the company has promoted its coffee shops as neighborhood hangouts where anyone is welcome. After a video of the arrests spread online, the hashtag #BoycottStarbucks trended on Twitter.

Protestors called for the firing of the employee who contacted police, who arrested the men. Starbucks says the manager who called police had left the company.

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.

Video shows several police talking quietly with two black men seated at a table. After a few minutes, officers handcuff the men and lead them outside as other customers say they weren’t doing anything wrong. A white man identified as real estate developer Andrew Yaffe arrives and tells the officers the two men were waiting for him. An officer says the men were not complying and were being arrested for trespassing.

“Why would they be asked to leave?” Yaffe says. “Does anybody else think this is ridiculous? It’s absolute discrimination.”

A woman can be heard in the video saying “they didn’t do anything, I saw the entire thing.”

Police haven’t released the names of the men, who were later released after the district attorney’s office said there was lack of evidence that a crime had been committed.

Johnson said the company will ensure that employee guidelines on when the police should be called will be clarified.

Asked if the incident was a case of racism, Johnson responded: “Starbucks was built around the concept of a third place where we create a warm and welcoming environment for all customers. What I do know is that did not happen in this instance. And that is what we’re focused on.”