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Starbucks customers around the country are boycotting the coffee chain after two black men were arrested in a Philadelphia store after an employee called police on them.
The CEO of Starbucks is pledging to start “unconscious bias” training for employees after a video of two African-American men being arrested Thursday while waiting for a friend at one of its Philadelphia locations sparked demonstrations and calls for a company boycott.
CEO Kevin Johnson said in a interview of ABC’s Good Morning America Monday that the training would address “unconscious bias.” He also discussed instituting training for store managers on guidelines for handling situations in the coffee shops that warrant calling the police.
“Clearly, there’s an opportunity for us to provide clarity,” he said.
He explained that the company was reviewing the actions of the Philadelphia store manager and the guidelines followed. Later, Starbucks confirmed Monday that the Starbucks employee who made the call to police is no longer with the company, but it didn’t indicate whether the worker was fired.
The reaction came in reaction to a videotaped incident in which Starbucks employees called police after the two men after two well-dressed African American men waited at the store without buying anything. They were denied access to the store bathroom, saying it was only for paying customers. The workers told police the pair was trespassing. A video of the incident posted on social media has been viewed an estimated 10 million times.
In the videotape, the friend, who is white, appears as the two men are being handcuffed by police and led away. Starbucks declined to press charges.
“Starbucks was built as a company that creates a warm, welcoming environment for all customers. That didn’t happen in this case,” Johnson said. “I’ve been very focused on understanding what guidelines and what training ever let this happen. What happened was wrong and we will fix it.”
The same morning he was being interviewed on live TV about racial profiling, protesters were chanting slogans like, “A whole lot of racism, a whole lot of crap, Starbucks coffee is anti-black,” at the Starbucks in the Center City section of downtown Philadelphia where the incident occurred. Demonstrators also were outside the coffee shop on Sunday.
Starbucks did not return phone calls seeking comment to delineate what policies are currently in place or outline what exactly the promised training would entail.
Racial tensions are running high in Philadelphia, where protesters on Sunday swarmed a Starbucks, where two black men were arrested last week. Nathan Frandino reports.
Video provided by Reuters
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Johnson has repeatedly apologized for the incident.
The names of the two men have not been released.
This is Johnson’s first real test on the job. April marks the one-year anniversary of his becoming CEO. He replaced Howard Schultz, who is credited with transforming the Seattle-based business into a worldwide brand and now serves as executive chairman. Johnson, who first joined Starbucks in 2009, was previously its chief operating officer.
Starbucks stock appears to be unaffected by the PR nightmare. It was $59.40, up 16 cents or 28% in late-morning trading.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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Follow USA TODAY reporter Zlati Meyer on Twitter: @ZlatiMeyer