Howard Schultz’s open letter to Starbucks customers: ‘The situation was reprehensible’

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Starbucks is renewing its pledge to be an “inclusive gathering place for all,” Howard Schultz said in an open letter to customers Tuesday.

About 8,000 company-owned locations will shut down on Tuesday afternoon to offer 175,000 employees a mandatory anti-bias training. Workers at each location will break into small groups to learn together. Schultz, CEO Kevin Johnson and musician and activist Common will serve as virtual guides.

Starbuck announced the training soon after two black men were arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks in April.

“The situation was reprehensible,” Schultz, Starbucks’ longtime former CEO and current chairman of the board of directors, said in the letter. It also ran as a full-page ad in the New York Times, USA Today and two Philadelphia papers.

The company found that “insufficient support and training” and “bias” led a former white employee to call police on the two men, Schultz said.

Starbucks has also changed its policy to allow people to use its restrooms and spend time in stores, even if they haven’t made any purchases.

“The incident has prompted us to reflect more deeply on all forms of bias, the role of our stores in communities and our responsibility to ensure that nothing like this happens again at Starbucks,” Schultz said. “The reflection has led to a long-term commitment to reform systemwide policies, while elevating inclusion and equity in all we do.”

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