Starbucks affirms open bathroom policy: 'Give people the key'

Starbucks’ solution to race issues — opening bathrooms to all

Starbucks bathrooms will now be open to all, including people who have not made purchases, following the controversial arrest of two black men who tried to use the restroom at a Philadelphia location. When they sat in the store without ordering anything, the manager called police, and the men were arrested for trespassing.

Chairman Howard Schultz says he doesn't want the company to become a public bathroom, but feels employees can make the "right decision a hundred percent of the time".

The arrest of Rashon Nelson, along with his childhood friend and business partner, Donte Robinson, set off a firestorm for the company, which will shut down more than 8,000 of its USA stores on the afternoon of May 29 to instruct 175,000 employees how to better recognize unconscious bias. "And we're the ones to blame", Schultz said Thursday.

Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, is one of those helping to shape the training.

Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson were both arrested, sparking a wave of protests outside Starbucks coffee shops across America.

Schultz also talked about Starbucks' failed 2015 campaign "Race Together", which was meant to promote constructive conversations about racial relations but instead made the company a lightning rod for white supremacists and hate speech.

More news: Trump says he'll speak Tuesday with President Xi of China

Schultz said the company rule about bathroom usage hadn't been specific.

He said the goal was to "elevate the national conservation, the national discourse around race" after the killings of Trayvon Martin in 2012 and Eric Garner in 2014 had brought up "racial divide".

From those conversations sprung the 2015 campaign in which baristas were instructed to scrawl the words " Race Together " on millions of tall-, grande- and venti-size drinks.

The company was totally unprepared for the backlash.

"We did not shut it down because we thought we were wrong to do it", he said. He said within two hours, the initiative had been "hijacked" on social media by hate and by anonymous people who "stole the narrative".

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