Seattle Free Riders Union: “We Won’t Pay”

Note: The Seattle Free Riders Union is independent of Black Orchid Collective.  Several of us are members of the FRU.

Black Orchid members are involved in starting a new formation, the Seattle Free Riders Union (website still under construction). It is a new formation being built by people from various political tendencies in Seattle who are coming together to deal with the austerity measures coming down, most recently in the form of transit cuts and bus fare hikes. We are inspired by the global wave of anti-austerity resistance, in the form of strikes and the growing international “I Won’t Pay” movement.

The Seattle Free Riders Union is open to all people regardless of political affiliation. You do not need to be an activist to get involved. Members pay monthly dues and in return, if caught dodging fare, the Free Riders Union pays their ticket. It is an insurance policy for those of us who can’t afford the high bus fares.

Collective efforts like this is a source of hope for those of us who want to flourish, not just survive. There are more and more people like us, who believe that money and exchange of commodities should not dominate our lives, who insist that transit, and all goods and services should be  free and organized by everyday people, not by capitalists and their state. Join the Seattle Free Riders Union! Catch the FRU downtown when we flyer, or email

Many thanks to members in FRU who developed this dope poster. Feel free to print out and pass or post this up!

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16 Responses to Seattle Free Riders Union: “We Won’t Pay”

  1. Brilliant idea! I’m spreading the word. Has anyone contacted the bus drivers’ union, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 587, to explain this action and ask for support so that our actions don’t become a “disagreement” between riders and drivers? It would be great if we got their support.

  2. Hey Lonnie,
    Thanks! There are a lot of other organizers and activists who have been key in developing the FRU. Some of us are planning to put out an open letter to rank and file bus drivers and flyer at the bases. We’ll send out details soon and also post the letter here. We have made contacts with some rank and file drivers too. But yes, we need to avoid the bus rider vs. driver conflict, but its possible also only to the extent that the drivers see themselves as part of the working class and not play a policing role. We want to back up drivers who encourage their coworkers to support their riders’ demands and also encourage riders to see drivers as their allies.

  3. Ariel Wetzel says:

    i tried posting this last night but it didn’t work… are comments on this blog moderated?

    are you all taking over the Arctic Circle website? if i were a lay-person i’d be confused, getting your flyer, and going to a fuck the police blog.

    how can UW workers & students participate? my workplace institutes a mandatory bus-pass this fall.

  4. Hey Ariel,
    I don’t know who is working on the website but I am guessing the FRU website would have content around the FRU. People are probably working on it now.
    We should meet up to discuss how UW workers and students can participate. If the cuts go through they would eliminate #72 and #73, major bus routes for the university. #43 also slated to be cut. Do you know others from UW who would be interested in organizing students and workers?
    As for the comments, they are moderated, but we didnt see any of your comments from yesterday though. We usually approve the comments unless they violate the House Rules.

  5. Mamos says:

    yeah, I’m not sure what’s up with the website… Arctic Circle no longer exists and my guess is folks are trying to replace that site with the new FRU site, on the same server or something. The FRU is not affiliated in any way with Arctic Circle Collective (which, again, no longer exists). Sorry for the confusion.

    I definitely think it’d be great to link up with folks on campus.

  6. slouchey says:

    I heard that Arctic Circle faked their own death in order to become a secret shadow party behind all the legit struggles in Seattle.

    On the other hand, I also heard it was just some cross internet tubes.

  7. David C says:

    For whatever it is worth, it looks like SHARE/WHEEL suddenly lost their funding for bus tickets for homeless people.

  8. Zulu says:

    Is $25 month worth the theft charge and jail time the City is still willing to implement for those caught not paying? I’m not against this movement. Quite the contrary, I’m on my 3rd citation. But I think I need to stop stealing rides now. Nmni Rath

  9. David C says:

    Oops, forgot to add why I was bringing this up: I remember last time their funding for bus tickets was threatened to be cut SHARE/WHEEL people were threatening they’d encourage their folks to try to ride the bus with out paying any ways.

  10. Thanks for the heads up! We’ll get in touch w them!

  11. Bill Jones says:

    Has anyone considered the fact that fare evasion on a King County Metro bus is actually a misdemeanor? How about the fact that a person caught evading fare twice on the Light Rail within a twelve month period is prosecuted for Theft in the 3rd Degree??? That’s up to thirty days in jail and a thousand dollar fine? Does this organization pay for bail and lawyer fees? If so, I will totally sign up!

  12. jomo206 says:

    hey Bill,
    many people who have/will sign up with the Free Riders Union would already be taking those risks on a daily basis already. this is our way to socialize that risk. then there is also smart ways of evading fare and not-so-smart ways that can reduce chances of being caught. people involved in the Free Riders Union share tips with one another on how to evade fare.

  13. mamos206 says:

    Bill, to be honest the group does not yet have a strategy for dealing with larger light rail fines… I’ve never heard of folks getting 1000 fines on the rail, I’ll have to look into that. Most of the fines we’ve heard about on the rail are lower than that. However, I’ll admit the strategy is better adapted to busses right now than the rail because the penalties for dodging on the busses are less and the enforcement is not as heavy. The idea is that all dues paying members will get support for paying the roughly 130 dollar fine for dodging on the busses. If the group grows stronger, larger, and gets more support then it should be able to handle larger fines. It’s just staring out now, and will grow stronger over time.

  14. Lisa says:

    Can I just ask — who IS supposed to pay for public transit, which presumably is a function we want provided? The $20 fee is regressive, sure, but is there a funding proposal that FRU members would support, that would alleviate fare hikes and be more progressive than the $20 tab hike on the table? “Not paying” does not maintain a viable transit system, so how should the state/county fund it?

  15. Mamos says:

    We are not just advocating non-payment, we are also fighting service cuts, and we’ll be out there at the rally against Metro cuts on Monday at 1 PM in front of the courthouse. We are against cutting public transit, and we’d actually like to see it expanded. We believe this is possible. I don’t have time to lay out our whole argument right now about how it would funded, but one of us will get back to you asap on that.

  16. Mamos says:

    Zulu, I just want to make sure we’re clear on this… the Freeriders does not pay its members 25 a month and then leave them to deal with citations. It’s the other way around. Members pay 25 a month in dues and then the group will pay up to $130 a month in citations if folks get caught dodging. Maybe you were clear on this already, if so my apologies, I just wanted to make sure. When you say “theft charge” do you mean citations/ fines? Or are you saying the city will charge more than the average 130 ticket for dodging bus fare? My understanding is they mostly give tickets, not jail time, and usually the only time you’d end up in jail is if you refuse to pay the ticket. If I’m wrong please show me/ tell me where you heard about these steeper penalties.

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