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Sound Transit bus, photo by Atomic Taco.

Sound Transit bus, photo by Atomic Taco.


Sound Transit Rejects Ads Citicizing Sea-Tac Jobs

Amy Radil

Sound Transit has declined to run ads criticizing "poverty–class" jobs at Sea–Tac Airport. Now the group running the ads has filed a federal lawsuit.


A coalition including union groups says Sound Transit's rejection of its ad campaign violates the agency's own policies. The ads criticize what they call poverty–class jobs at Sea–Tac airport, with the tagline, "Let's make all airport jobs good jobs." The group, Working Washington, applied to have Sound Transit run the ads on the Link light rail line, but the agency refused.

Jonathan Rosenblum is a lawyer the campaign director for the group, Working Washington. He says Sound Transit found that the ads violate the agency's ban on political advertising. But Rosenblum says the agency ran a related, although less pointed, ad from the group on its buses last year that declared, "Our bridges need work, so do we."

David West is the executive director for Puget Sound Sage, another partner in the campaign.

Rosenblum West: "This is a campaign to educate the public about their working conditions, and we're very disappointed that Sound Transit has refused to take this ad."

Backers of the ad campaign say workers who clean airplanes, load luggage, and drive taxis are being subjected to increasingly difficult conditions, while working for minimum wage and no benefits. The ads feature a photo of Hosea Wilcox, who has worked as a skycap at Sea–Tac for 31 years. He says he's still making minimum wage and his hours have been reduced. and he's now relying on food stamps.

Wilcox: "I'm not ashamed to say this because I shouldn't be going through this. I'm a good worker and I know I'm good. Thirty–one years proves that."

Working Washington filed a lawsuit Wednesday in US District Court saying Sound Transit's decision violates the First Amendment. However, Sound Transit's advertising policy says the agency is committed to maintaining neutrality on "political, religious or controversial matters." Sound Transit spokesman Geoff Patrick says the ad campaign clearly violates this policy. He says the agency's ad broker, Clear Channel, had flagged the ad as possibly unacceptable before the agency rejected it. Patrick says Clear Channel did not flag the earlier campaign by Working Washington, otherwise Sound Transit would likely have rejected it as well. He says Sound Transit will be looking more closely at incoming ads in the future.

Last year in a similar case, the ACLU sued King County Metro for refusing to run ads criticizing Israel. "Israeli war crimes." Metro called the ads a security risk. A federal judge ruled in Metro's favor; the ACLU has appealed that decision.

I'm Amy Radil, KUOW News.

© Copyright 2012, KUOW

[Ed.: This story has been amended from the original that aired. In the earlier version, David West was incorrectly identified as Jonathan Rosenblum. Rosenblum is the campaign director for Working Washington, not a lawyer for the organization as originally reported. (04/06/2012)]