The news follows an outpouring of anger over the arrest of two black men who were "sitting quietly" in a Philadelphia cafe. The CEO of Starbucks has apologized to the men in person.
Starbucks announced on Tuesday that it would close 8,000 of its US stores and its corporate offices on May 29 for all employees to receive racial-bias education. The decision came after outrage over the arrest of two black men in one of its cafes as they waited for a friend.
"Closing our stores for racial bias training is just one step in a journey that requires dedication from every level of our company and partnerships in our local communities," said CEO Kevin Johnson, who apologized to the two men in person.
The incident occurred last Thursday, after the two men came into a Starbucks cafe in Philadelphia and sat down without ordering anything. According to reports, when they went to use the toilet, they were confronted by the manager who said they could not use the restroom without purchasing anything. The pair explained that they were waiting for another friend to arrive before they ordered.
The manager asked them to leave, but they said they still wanted to wait for their friend. The manager then called the police.
'They were sitting there quietly'
Video of the incident was broadcast on social media, in which the pair does not appear to exhibit any aggressive behavior as they are being arrested for loitering. As the police begin to apprehend them, the friend they were waiting for, a white man, arrives, and angrily asks if the arrest was happening because the two men were black.
"The men were sitting there peacefully, quietly and they were put in handcuffs and they were walked out of the store, humiliated, embarrassed and put in a patrol car," Melissa DePino, who took the video, said in an interview with MSNBC.
Almost immediately, the footage went viral, with most social media users commenting that they did not believe the same treatment would be applied to white patrons.
The men were released by the Philadelphia police without charge. After the incident, protesters descended on the store and there were calls on social media for a boycott of the coffee chain.
The new training for Starbucks employees will be designed "to address implicit bias, promote conscious inclusion, prevent discrimination and ensure everyone inside a Starbucks store feels safe and welcome."
The program will consult Eric Holder, the attorney general under former President Barack Obama, and civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson, amongst others, for their expertise.
es/ap (AFP, dpa)