Labor and Employment Perspective on the Starbuck Arrests
What began as an opportunity to talk real estate at a Philadelphia Starbucks coffee shop on April 12, 2018, ended in the arrest of two black men which launched outraged protests and accusations of racial discrimination. Two black patrons who were waiting for a friend were arrested after a Starbucks store manager asked them to leave. The men refused to leave the store and the manager called the police who were then arrested for trespassing. Witnesses have said that the men did nothing to warrant an arrest and have described the encounter as racially motivated.
Starbucks Coffee Company prides itself as being a socially responsible business. So where does this leave the company now? Starbucks CEO, Kevin Johnson, very quickly denounced the arrests and a decision was made to close stores for a day of employee training. They will close more than 8,000 company-owned US stores for a day in May to conduct racial-bias training. The training will become part of the on-boarding process for new employees. Johnson said in a statement, “Regretfully, our practices and training let to a bad outcome – the basis for the call to the Philadelphia police department was wrong.”
Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson – the 23-year-olds at the center of it all – say they just hope the incident will lead to change. The Starbucks manager who called the police is no longer working there. The racial bias training sends a powerful signal that avoiding bias is a priority for Starbucks. It is a step in the right direction.