Starbucks To Close On May 29 For Racial Bias Training

Starbucks regulars, mark your calendars.

On May 29, you won’t be able to get your daily latte at any Starbucks location in the United States. That’s because, in an unprecedented move, the coffee chain is closing its 8,000 stores to conduct anti-bias education geared toward preventing discrimination.

The decision comes after an incident on April 12 when two black men were arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks while waiting for a third person to arrive for a meeting about real estate investments.

Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson asked use the bathroom without having yet made a purchase; an employee then asked them to leave. When the men refused to leave the Starbucks, as they were still waiting for their colleague, an employee called the police. The third man, Andrew Yaffe, who is white, arrived while Nelson and Robinson were being arrested and confirmed he was there to meet them.

Yaffee is seen on a video filmed by a customer asking the police why they were being handcuffed. Nelson and Robinson were arrested on suspicion of trespassing and taken to a local precinct, according to the New York Times.

Video footage of the arrest went viral, prompting calls for boycotts of Starbucks and highlighting the need to examine the presence of implicit bias.

“The Starbucks situation provides dangerous insight regarding the failure of our nation to take implicit bias seriously,” NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson said in a statement. “We refuse to believe that our unconscious bias — the racism we are often unaware of — can and does make its way into our actions and policies.”

The training will be provided to nearly 175,000 Starbucks employees and will become part of the onboarding process for new employees going forward. The curriculum will be developed with the guidance of experts on confronting racial bias, including Bryan Stevenson, CEO of Equal Justice Initiative; Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund; Heather McGhee, president of Demos, a public policy organization; former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder; and Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League.

This will be only the second time the company has closed all of its locations for training, the last being in 2008 when employees were trained on improving the “Starbucks Experience” for better customer satisfaction.

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

‘This Is Something That Has Been Going On For Years’

Nelson and Robinson visited “Good Morning America” to speak with Robin Roberts about the incident. You can watch the full interview below:

Nelson and Robinson have agreed to meet with Starbucks’ CEO Kevin Johnson to discuss the incident. On “GMA,” their lawyer said that conversation is ongoing.

The prosecutor’s office in Philadelphia declined to pursue charges against the two men due to a “lack of evidence that a crime was committed,” the Times reported.