Last week, Al Jourgensen of the multi-platinum selling, Grammy-nominated band Ministry posted a letter to Urban Outfitters chairman of the board of directors and president Richard Hayne on punkvoter.com. The letter addresses the recent controversy surrounding accusations that the retailer is covertly attempting to dissuade the youth of America from voting in the upcoming election. This accusation stems from a t-shirt sold at Urban Outfitter stores which reads "Voting Is For Old People." Mr. Jourgensen not taking this lightly, saying "Mr. Hayne, I am sure I don't have to give you a history lesson regarding the incredible amount of lives lost fighting for the Right to Vote in America alone. I am shocked and appalled at your recklessness..."
Jourgensen continued, "I see your actions as a blatant attempt to quash the efforts of Punkvoter.com, Music for America, Rock the Vote, and other pro- youth vote organizations. It is public knowledge that you contribute to the Republican Party. Could this be the motivation behind your anti-vote strategy to suppress the youth vote you have so much influence over? Shame on you, Mr. Hayne. I know you know better."
US Newswire reports that Hayne has contributed $7500 to the Republican Party and over $13,000 to right-wing senator Rick Santorum's (Rep-PA) campaign. Hayne told Philadelphia Weekly last year that "our job as a business is not to promote a political agenda. That's not what we do." Hayne and his stores continue to defend the t-shirt.
I have attached the Jourgensen letter in its entirety below. If you have the time, I highly recommend looking it over. It's an interesting issue and the letter is a great read.
Mr. Richard A. Hayne
Chairman of the Board of Directors and President,
Dear Mr. Hayne:
How can you possibly rationalize that selling a T-Shirt stating: "Voting is for Old People" is not a political agenda? As an artist, I appreciate expressions of outrage. I understand rebellion, and respect the use of irony and sarcasm to prove a point in public speech. But as a board member of Punkvoter.com, I find your T-shirt "Voting is for Old People" to be an anti- American abomination. Mr. Hayne, I am sure I don't have to give you a history lesson regarding the incredible amount of lives lost fighting for the Right to Vote in America alone. I am shocked and appalled at your recklessness, especially given the historical roots of your company, Urban Outfitters. What has happened to you?
Voting is the right and obligation of all voting age citizens. Your company markets to a young clientele and a voting demographic that are severely under-represented and need to be encouraged to exercise their Constitutional Rights as Americans. In 2000, the US Statistical Abstract and Census Bureau's research reported 36 percent of 64 million voters aged 18-34 voted in the last election. These young voters represent three times the voters aged 65-75. If voting were only for our senior citizens, America's youth would be completely marginalized from our country's democratic process.
Your T-shirt design is knowingly irresponsible. It is a disgusting effort to reap profit from cynicism while suppressing civic involvement, and encouraging apathy, not to mention referring to our senior citizens as "old people." I see your actions as a blatant attempt to quash the efforts of Punkvoter.com, Music for America and Rock the Vote, and other pro- youth vote organizations. It is public knowledge that you contribute to the Republican Party. Could this be the motivation behind your anti-vote strategy to suppress the youth vote you have so much influence over? Shame on you, Mr. Hayne. I know you know better.
The same kid who saves up and spends $28 bucks on this type of merchandise has real decisions that he/she will be facing in the near future. Life decisions, such as how are they going to get a decent paying job when unemployment rates are ever increasing. How can they get a job if our job creation is hitting this younger generation the hardest (youth unemployment rates have been as high as 12.8 percent). How many McJobs do they need to get to cover their increasing prices of healthcare and increasing tuition costs, never mind having to pay to join the football teams at their high schools? What is the average age of the kids fighting the war in Iraq and dying? What about the 375,000 low income college students that lost their higher education funding or the over 1.5 million kids that had their Pell Grants reduced because of our current Administration's fiscal policies? And you purport voting is for old people?
For Urban Outfitters, it is damage control time. In an ideal world, I would love to have your product removed from your stores, but this is a Free Country and you have a right to sell the product that you want. But to sell it under the guise of not having a political agenda is hypocritical and underhanded. In a next to ideal world, you could sell "Voting Matters" shirts to your clientele, preferably T-shirts that do not come from Third World sweatshops, but I won't get into THAT now -- that's another letter. If you are a real American, a true business leader, and if you have an ounce of the 60s activist you once were left in you, you will consider my letter. Punkvoter.com, and the thousands of fans that have joined our ranks know not only how to vote with our ballots, we know how to vote with our wallets, and we know how to boycott. No joke.