CHICAGO – Chicago’s Uber and Lyft drivers filed a motion on Tuesday, February 28, 2017 to join a federal lawsuit against the City of Chicago challenging the constitutionality of the City’s ban on rideshare advertisements.
Chicago Ordinance No. O2014-1367 bans commercial advertisements from being displayed on the exterior or in the interior of rideshare vehicles. The drivers claim the law violates their First Amendment right to free speech and Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection.
The drivers seek the right to sue, an injunction on the ban, and an award of one dollar. “This case is not about money,” rideshare lawyer Bryant Greening said. “This is about governments not arbitrarily restricting our community’s right to speak and ability to earn a living.”
The ordinance is unconstitutional, Greening explained. “Commercial speech is protected by the First Amendment,” he said. “The City of Chicago cannot ban advertisements unless such a ban furthers an important government interest. Here, the government does not have a compelling, important, or even rational justification for prohibiting rideshare drivers from advertising.”
The drivers point to the City’s treatment of taxicab drivers as proof that the ad ban is meritless. Pursuant to Chicago’s Municipal Code, taxicab licensees may apply for permits to install and/or display an advertising sign or device on the exterior and interior of their vehicles. Rideshare drivers, on the other hand, face fines up to $1,000/violation for displaying such materials.
“There is no difference between a rideshare vehicle and taxicab that justifies permitting commercial speech in one but not the other,” rideshare attorney Matt Belcher said.
Belcher explained the City’s arbitrary distinction is a content-based restriction on speech. “The Supreme Court of the United States has held that speech restrictions based on the identity of the speaker are to be stricken unless they are narrowly tailored to serve a compelling government interest,” Belcher said. “Chicago’s blanket ban on rideshare advertisements is excessively broad and serves only to quash the voice of the driver.”
The drivers demand equal protection under the law, Greening said. “Rideshare work is difficult; fares are increasingly cut. Drivers have a right to supplement their income in lawful, constitutionally protected ways.”
The drivers filed the motion to intervene with U.S. District Court Judge Elaine J. Bucklo, who presides over Vugo, Inc. v. City of Chicago, 17-cv-864. Vugo, Inc., a rideshare advertising company, filed its action in early February, claiming the City’s ban violated its right to advertise.
“We stand beside Vugo in demanding equal rights for all members of our community,” Greening said. “Vugo will speak for the advertisers. We will speak for the drivers.”
The drivers are represented by attorneys Greening and Belcher of LegalRideshare, LLC. LegalRideshare.com is an Illinois law firm dedicated to protecting injured drivers. Greening can be contacted at 312-767-7950 or email@example.com.