Starbucks Advisers: Anti-Racial Bias Training Isn't Enough; Time For A Full 'Civil Rights Audit'

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Starbucks advisers say the company’s anti-racial bias training in response to the arrest of two black men at a store in Philadelphia isn’t enough, and they’re proposing a “civil rights audit” of the company to make equity its number-one concern.

Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz contacted Heather McGhee of the equality advocacy group Demos and Sherrilyn Ifill of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund after the arrest in May for advice. The two wrote a report with several recommendations, including “a top-to-bottom civil rights audit, more resources for employees encountering customers with mental-health and addiction problems, and the creation of a ‘customer bill of rights’ to be posted at each store,” Seattle Times business reporter Benjamin Romano writes.

After the training of 175,000 employees, McGhee and Ifill found some improvements in their understanding of the nature of “unconscious bias,” but the advisers decided a more “rigorous evaluation” needs to be done. It takes a lot of work to create the utopian culture Starbucks imagines.

The advisers suggested the company be thoroughly examined through “a civil-rights lens, looking at things like variances in customer treatment based on background and racial equity in the Starbucks work force, from front-line employees to the boardroom.”

Policy manuals need to be “overhauled to prioritize equity throughout the company culture,” Romano reports, and “clearly direct employees on managing customer relations, including how to respond to incidents of discrimination, bias and harassment.” The “customer bill of rights” would go on the walls of every store, “clarifying new policies including the opening of restrooms and stores to all customers, whether they’ve made a purchase or not.”

This means Starbucks employees will be forced to interact with homeless individuals streaming in from the streets, including those who are mentally ill and have addiction issues. This essentially turns employees into social workers of sorts, requiring them to seek help from outside groups like the United Way.

Starbucks has partnered with the non-profit organization “to give employees options, including the national 211 phone number, for connecting those customers with resources rather than calling police.”

McGhee calls this a “police alternative.” But one has to ask, do other customers at Starbucks want to be involved in a dicey social experiment when they’re simply wanting to buy coffee on the way to work? Do parents whose teenaged kids work at Starbucks want them managing addicts and the mentally ill while earning money for college? Probably not.

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