Ashley Gross

Business and Labor Reporter

Ashley Gross is KPLU's business and labor reporter, covering everything from and Boeing to garbage strikes. She joined the station in May 2012 after working for five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.

She studied history at Brown University and earned a master's in international affairs at Columbia University. She grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She lives in West Seattle with her husband and two sons.

One of Ashley's most memorable moments in radio happened several years ago in Northwest Alaska: "I was visiting an alcohol and drug rehab program in the tiny village of Selawik. It helps Alaska Natives recover by helping them get back in touch with their subsistence lifestyle. It was spring, which meant the river was still frozen - barely. We went out on snowmachines to go ice-fishing, but late in the day, as we headed back, the river had melted to the consistency of a Slurpee. It was a harrowing ride and a good lesson in trust - I rode with my eyes closed, clinging for dear life to the woman driving. A week later, three people drowned trying to ride a snowmachine over that river, and that's when I realized just how dangerous life in rural Alaska can be."

Ways to Connect

photo courtesy of the Tri-City Americans

Amid all the hubbub in the legislature last session over school funding and transportation spending, lawmakers also passed a bill that, in effect, exempts Western Hockey League players from state child labor and minimum wage laws.

Shortly after that, the Department of Labor and Industries closed a lengthy investigation into the hockey league without taking any action, a move that is troubling to Mary Miller, who was a child labor specialist with the department for more than a decade before she left last year.

Brian Liesse / Seattle Thunderbirds

Sports have such a powerful hold on our culture that lawmakers are often willing to take extraordinary steps to keep teams and fans happy. Even the U.S. Supreme Court exempted pro baseball from antitrust laws way back in 1922.

Here in Washington state, we have our own exception to the rule when it comes to sports.

Puget Sound Energy

Plans for a liquefied natural gas facility at the Port of Tacoma are one step closer to reality, after the Tacoma City Council passed a resolution to move ahead on an agreement with the port about the project.

Puget Sound Energy says it needs a place to store natural gas and the way to do that is to chill it to a liquid form. So the company wants to spend $275 million to build the plant which would convert the gas to a liquid and then keep it on port property in a 140-foot-tall storage tank.

Mike Mozart / Flickr

Executives from Washington industries, ranging from software to aerospace to agriculture, are speaking out in favor of the Pacific trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Henry Alva / Flickr

The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement that was hammered out behind closed doors is now public, and Washington businesses and politicians will be giving their initial thoughts on it at a conference sponsored by the Washington Council on International Trade.

Reed Saxon / AP Photo

After battling in court for nine years, Boeing has agreed to pay $57 million to settle a class-action lawsuit that alleged the company's 401(k) retirement plan charged employees excessive administrative fees and should have offered different investment options. 

Patrick Rodriguez via Wikimedia Commons

Early election results show that Tacoma voters appear to have rejected what would have been one of the most ambitious minimum wage hikes in the country, but they favor a more gradual hike that would phase in a $12 minimum wage by 2018, and link it to inflation after that.

Elaine Thompson / AP

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine have signed declarations of emergency. But not for a natural disaster – what they are trying to address is the growing problem of homelessness.

In Seattle these days, it is hard to miss the growing number of tents. Each one is the temporary home for a person – or even a family – who is struggling.

The city of Seattle now spends more than $40 million to try to help people who are homeless, but Murray says it is not enough.

Elaine Thompson / AP

The income gap in Seattle is growing and the city is becoming more like New York in its divide between rich and poor, according to a recent study done for the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. Now the chamber is strategizing about ways to preserve and create more middle-class jobs.

The study, done by the Boston Consulting Group, showed that the Seattle region lost 7,000 middle-income jobs from 2009 to 2013, but gained 20,000 low-income jobs and 18,000 high-income jobs.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Tacoma voters have a big choice to make by next Tuesday: Do they want to move even faster than the city of Seattle in lifting their minimum wage?

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Seattle voters are getting ready to choose who will represent their district. Seven district seats will be decided, as well at two at large positions. KPLU’s election series, Back On The Block, revisits issues affecting each district and introduces us to the candidates.

Richard Drew / AP Photo

Microsoft quietly cut jobs this week but released few details. That news comes in what’s otherwise been a good week for the company as the stock reached a 15-year high.  

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Boeing reported third-quarter earnings and revenue that topped analyst estimates, but the company hinted at a possible lower production rate for its wide-body 777 jet. 

Revenue climbed 9 percent to $25.8 billion, topping analysts' consensus estimate of $24.7 billion, according to the financial research company, Factset. Boeing's net earnings jumped 25 percent. The company delivered a record 199 airplanes in the quarter.

Elaine Thompson / AP

Cities around the globe are competing for jobs, and especially good, middle-class jobs. A new study says Seattle has fallen a bit behind some other cities, in part, because of problems with infrastructure.

The study compares Seattle with cities around the world that are a similar size and type of economy – for example, San Francisco, Singapore, Boston, Amsterdam.


This is a big week for earnings reports from some of our region’s biggest companies.

Microsoft investors will be watching to see if the company’s gaining ground in cloud computing against a rival right here in the neighborhood.

Amazon is the leader in cloud computing. That’s where businesses tap into big server farms run by the likes of Microsoft or Amazon instead of buying their own machines. It’s a fast-growing business and Amazon’s had the edge, but there’s still plenty of time, says Rob Helm, managing vice president with the research firm Directions On Microsoft.

Oregon Department of Forestry / Flickr

The aviation industry faces increased pressure to lower its carbon footprint. There has long been a hope that alternative jet fuels could be the answer, and this week in Seattle, experts on such fuels will gather to present their research. 

In June, the Obama administration took the first step toward regulating greenhouse gas emissions from airplanes. So that is an additional incentive to airplane makers and airlines to reduce pollution. / Flickr

There are many computer scientists these days trying to create machines that can make connections the way human brains do; but it is not an easy task.

Now the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence is sponsoring a contest to see whose software can best answer 8th grade science questions. 

Patrick Rodriguez via Wikimedia Commons

Tacoma voters have less than a month to decide whether to raise the city’s minimum wage, and if so, how much. Thursday evening, debaters at Pacific Lutheran University will give their best arguments in favor and against a $15 minimum wage.

Jacquelyn Martin / AP

Washington aerospace businesses are meeting this week in Spokane for an annual statewide summit, where they are planning to talk about some of the industry’s most pressing issues, including reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank. 

Mark Lennihan / AP Photo

The recent New York Times feature about Amazon’s internal culture is still generating lots of discussion about work-life balance. At a recent tech summit sponsored by the technology publication Geekwire, two former Amazon executives told the crowded ballroom that they thought the article was too negative. 

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Amazon has been growing so fast in Seattle that the company has lately been blamed for everything from too few women in the dating pool to traffic gridlock and rising rents. Now, the company is trying to show how having its campus in Seattle is a benefit to the city. 

Library of Congress

The International Franchise Association has lost another round in its legal fight over Seattle’s $15 minimum wage ordinance. The association sued Seattle arguing that the law is unfair to businesses that are part of a national franchise network. Seattle requires that franchisees be counted in the large employer category and pay the higher wage more quickly than small businesses. 

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

On the day that Chinese President Xi Jinping toured Boeing's wide-body jet factory in Everett, Boeing announced a deal to sell 300 airplanes to Chinese airlines and leasing companies and build a 737 completion and delivery center in China. 

Elaine Thompson / AP

Clean energy is a big part of the Chinese president’s agenda while he’s in Seattle. That includes a focus on nuclear power – an issue that Microsoft founder Bill Gates has been working on. 

In 2006, Gates helped launch a Bellevue-based company called TerraPower. He invested money in it and became chairman. TerraPower is working on what Gates calls a next-generation nuclear reactor.

The reactor that TerraPower is working on uses depleted uranium for fuel. Essentially, it would run on nuclear waste. Gates says that’s more fuel efficient and safer.

SounderBruce / Flickr

The strong economic ties between China and Washington state are in the spotlight this week with the upcoming visit by China’s president. Real estate development has gotten a boost from Chinese investors in recent years, but one key program that facilitates that investment is set to expire this month. 

Saul Loeb / AP

When the Chinese president visits Seattle next week, he’ll take time to drop in at a Tacoma high school. That visit is the result of lots of behind-the-scenes effort in Tacoma and in the Chinese city of Fuzhou. The two municipalities have long ties with each other.

Gregory Youtz is the chair of the Tacoma Fuzhou Sister City Program and a music professor at Pacific Lutheran University. He says a lot of Chinese people will be exposed to Tacoma because of the president’s visit.

Eino Sierpe / Flickr

Washington businesses that want to have a role in shaping minimum wage policies will get a chance to talk strategy this week. The Association of Washington Business is holding its annual policy summit, with one panel devoted to the hot-button issue of minimum wage hikes. 

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

The Seattle teachers strike is now in its third day, and it’s stirring up memories for people who lived through past strikes, especially 35 miles north of Seattle in Marysville, which set a state record for the longest teacher walkout.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

There’s a new twist in the legal battle over the city of SeaTac’s $15 minimum wage ordinance. Alaska Airlines and other businesses are now asking the Washington Supreme Court to reverse its recent opinion, in which five of nine justices ruled that SeaTac’s minimum wage applies to workers at Sea-Tac International Airport.

The plaintiffs list a number of reasons why the court should reconsider, including their argument that SeaTac's minimum wage ordinance conflicts with federal labor law because the city law tries to do too much.

Chethan Shankar

Tourists visiting the Space Needle on Labor Day will see workers out picketing, as the unionized workforce at the Space Needle continues to put pressure on the private owners of Seattle’s iconic landmark. 

The labor dispute has been going on for years. The workers are represented by Unite Here Local 8, and their union has been pushing for a contract with protections against outsourcing of jobs.