Lawsuit to Uphold Free Speech Rights on Sound Transit Trains Moves to Appeals Court

News Release: 
Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The ACLU of Washington today announced it is appealing to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in its lawsuit representing Working Washington to uphold the group's free speech rights on light rail trains. Working Washington is challenging Sound Transit's refusal to run an ad it submitted in March that promotes good jobs for low-income workers at Sea-Tac Airport. The lawsuit says that Sound Transit’s rejection of the ad violates the agency’s policies and the First Amendment.

“A government agency that operates an advertising program open to a wide variety of messages cannot just leave it to the discretion of individual government officials to decide subjectively what is ‘controversial.’ What Sound Transit has done in rejecting the ‘Good Jobs’ ad is to censor a message without a reasonable basis,” said ACLU of Washington legal director Sarah Dunne.

The ad in question was submitted by Working Washington to call attention to the issue of low-wage jobs at Sea-Tac. The ad features three images: first class (with a picture of a wine glass on a plane), coach class (with a picture of the inside of a plane), and “poverty class” (with a photo of a man who still makes minimum wage after working more than 30 years at Sea-Tac. The ad’s tagline simply states, “Let’s make all airport jobs good jobs.”

Working Washington submitted the ad to the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority (commonly known as Sound Transit), which operates an advertising program on its buses and trains. On March 6, Working Washington signed a contract to run the ad with Clear Channel, which manages Sound Transit’s ad program, and paid for the ad. But on March 20th, Sound Transit said it would not allow the ad to run and refunded the money, saying (through Clear Channel) that, “Sound Transit is not allowing political type ads on their buses or trains.”