All Canadian Starbucks stores closed early Monday for anti-bias training
Published Monday, June 11, 2018 8:47AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, June 11, 2018 10:55PM EDT
Canadians looking for an afternoon pick-me-up on Monday had to look elsewhere than Starbucks as every location was shut down for anti-bias training.
Each of Canada’s more than 1,100 Starbucks locations closed at 2 or 3 p.m. for a few hours as part of a “conversation and learning session on race, bias, and inclusion,” according to a letter sent to customers on Monday morning.
Michael Conway, president of Starbucks Coffee Canada, said in the letter this is only the second time the company has closed each of its locations at the same time. About 10 years ago, they closed for a training session on perfecting the espresso.
“We’re closing our stores again now because we must never be complacent in our desire to be inclusive, to live our mission and values, and to create a culture of warmth and belonging every time,” Conway wrote in the letter.
The decision to hold these training sessions stems from an April incident at a Philadelphia Starbucks location where an employee called 911 on two black men who were sitting in the coffee shop. Police officers came and arrested the men, but it was later revealed they were waiting on a business meeting.
“The reprehensible event in Philadelphia prompted us to reflect and led to this day,” Conway wrote. “This isn’t just about the events of Philadelphia, or about race, or about social challenges in America. This is about humanity.”
Speaking to CTV News’s Peter Akman, James Rilett of Restaurants Canada said that unlike our neighbours to the south, Canadian restaurants "haven’t had the high profile cases like elsewhere."
On May 29, Starbucks closed its more than 8,000 U.S. locations for similar training.
In speaking with CTV News Channel, Shieh-Chi Chen, a diversity and inclusion expert with 2Sisters Consulting, said this kind of training is important for all organizations.
“We do like to think as Canadians that we’re much more multicultural, however we all have biases that are embedded,” Chen said. “Sometimes these hidden biases are tucked underneath us and they pop up in times of stress.”
“When we’re uncomfortable, stuff comes out of our mouth that maybe we don’t mean.”
Chen says the most important part of these training sessions is that all employees -- from the top down -- talk about their experiences with race, bias and inclusion to provide a better understanding for everyone.
Margaret Yap, associate professor of HR management at Ryerson University, has doubts about whether Monday’s afternoon training session is enough.
“I don’t think it will solve the problem if this is the only thing Starbucks is doing,” she said. “Training for a few hours is not going to make sure that people know how to actually behave in the future.”