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April 5, 2012 at 3:08 PM

Sound Transit won’t run this pro-labor ad on airport trains

The pro-union coalition Working Washington says it bought $6,200 in transit ads — on trains heading to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport — to publicize the plight of hundreds of airport workers paid at or near the minimum wage.

But Sound Transit’s advertising guidelines are so restrictive that the agency declined to run them, after ad broker Clear Channel alerted transit staff the spots could violate agency policy. They show a champagne glass as “first class,” a seating cabin as “coach class,” and skycap Hosea Wilcox representing “poverty class,” alongside the message, “Let’s make all airport jobs good jobs.”

Working Washington says it is filing a federal lawsuit against Sound Transit, and supporters held a news conference Thursday at the International District/Chinatown Station.

“There’s a principle here as to what’s getting silenced, how, and why,” said coalition spokesman Sage Wilson. The ads are part of a runup to a workers rally April 28 at the airport.

Sound Transit advertising guidelines say ads will be allowed that sustain “a safe and welcoming environment for its customers, and maintaining a position of neutrality on political, religious and controversial matters.”

All political ads are banned, along with many other categories including alcohol, tobacco, firearms, violent themes, and sexually suggestive material.

Transit spokesman Geoff Patrick said the rules will survive legal challenges so long as they are applied equally to all groups or sides of an issue. Patrick also mentioned that the transit board has approved a contracting policy that in essence assures $9.5 billion in rail projects will be built by union labor.

The flap follows a controversy in 2010 when King County Metro Transit declined to run ads alleging war crimes in the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts — and followed up by banning all political ads.

See Sound Transit’s policy, which was signed July 29, 2011.

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