Two top Starbucks leaders said in a meeting in Atlanta on Thursday the company will overhaul its hiring and promotion practices after apologizing for the arrests last month of two black men in one of its Philadelphia stores.
Company chairman Howard Schultz and chief operating officer Rosalind Gates Brewer answered questions about the controversial incident during a 90-minute town hall meeting at Morehouse College. The meeting was scheduled about two months ago.
Schultz called the incident “reprehensible.”
“There was a failure of leadership,” Brewer told the audience.
Brewer said the store manager should had never called police on the two men, who were handcuffed and escorted out for “trespassing,” according to local authorities. Several protests were held at the store and other Starbucks nationwide, accusing the company of racially profiling.
The men received a settlement from the city of Philadelphia, officials announced Wednesday.
Brewer said Thursday the store manager should not have been in that job and was not following the company’s policies. Some repeatedly asked if the manager is racist.
“Was her judgment a result of racism? I don’t know,” said Brewer, who called the manager’s actions “poor judgment.”
The manager is no longer with the company.
Some audience members accused the company leaders of dodging questions. Schultz and Brewer spent much of the meeting talking about the company’s efforts to make Starbucks a great work environment and discussing race relations.
“I do not have the answers,” Schultz said. “I’m seeking insight and wisdom for myself.”
Starbucks plans to close all of its stores the afternoon of May 29 so its employees can undergo racial bias education.