Ashley Gross

Business and Labor Reporter

Ashley Gross is KPLU's business and labor reporter, covering everything from Amazon.com 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

The Tacoma Public School District has been scrambling to make sure its water is safe to drink after some schools showed high levels of lead, but water isn’t the only potential source of lead exposure – contaminated soil is also a risk. 

Ashley Gross / KPLU

All around us, people are quietly taking care of disabled relatives, day in and day out. The stress, sacrifice and rewards of that life are the focus of a new documentary called "Undersung," which is a collaboration of retired University of Washington poet Heather McHugh and filmmaker Adam Larsen. The film premieres this Sunday at the DOXA Documentary Film Festival in Vancouver, B.C.

100,000 Opportunities Initiative

If you’re between the ages of 16 and 24 and looking for a job, head to Seattle’s Centurylink Field on Thursday to meet with hiring managers from companies including Microsoft, T-Mobile and Starbucks.

Mark Lennihan / AP Photo

At a luncheon hosted by the Technology Alliance in Seattle, Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella weighed in on whether computers will one day put a lot of us out of work, and his take is that people are right to be concerned.

Paula Wissel / KPLU

Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy said the county needs to pass a special sales tax increase to pay for mental health services and that a lack of treatment options for people with mental health problems is contributing to rising homelessness. 

supafly / Flickr

Employees in the Puget Sound area working for grocery chains such as QFC, Safeway and Fred Meyer have approved new contracts that protect their health coverage and improve wages, according to a statement from their unions, Locals 21 and 367 of the United Food and Commercial Workers and Teamsters 38. The contracts cover about 30,000 workers in the region.

“Legislative Building and Temple of Justice” by Dan Ox is licensed under CC BY 2.0 bit.ly/1rnzFOw

Tens of thousands of state workers in Washington are the target of unusual public records requests  from an anti-union group asking for their birth dates. 

The requests came from the Freedom Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Olympia that’s targeting public sector unions. On its web site, the group says it wants to “reverse the stranglehold public-sector unions have on our government.” 

fredlet / Flickr

Grocery store workers in the Puget Sound region came very close to going on strike in late 2013, but recent contract negotiations have gone more smoothly and workers are voting this week on a tentative agreement, with results expected tomorrow.

Ralph Radford / AP Photo

Boeing says it’s doing all it can to meet a big deadline in August of next year, when the company is supposed to deliver the first 18 KC-46 aerial refueling tankers to the Air Force, but cost overruns on the program have been mounting.

Working Washington

Seattle has paid sick leave and one of the country’s highest minimum wages. Now, the city is exploring whether to adopt another kind of worker-friendly ordinance, this time one focused on how to make workers’ schedules more predictable.

Remitly

Startups trying to raise venture capital dollars have faced a pretty chilly market lately, but a Seattle-based company called Remitly has just announced it pulled in its biggest round of funding ever. 

Ashley Gross / KPLU

When you think of business rivalries, some epic ones might spring to mind: Coke vs. Pepsi, McDonald's vs. Burger King, Marvel vs. DC.

Here in Washington state, we have front-row seats to one of those legendary business rivalries: Boeing vs. Airbus. And what's interesting here is that an entire aerospace supply chain that grew up servicing one major customer, Boeing, has now diversified into selling to its European arch-nemesis.

Elmira College / Flickr

There’s so much construction underway in the Puget Sound region right now, but it’s easy to forget that the workers face significant safety risks.

One of those risks comes from small sand particles known as silica that can lodge in workers’ lungs. In June, a tougher federal rule on silica exposure is set to take effect.

Mike Mozart / Flickr

Microsoft shares sank about 5 percent after the company reported that quarterly earnings dropped 25 percent. The Redmond-based software giant is trying to move beyond its traditional dependence on the personal computer market, which is struggling.

Port of Tacoma

Northwest Innovation Works, a company backed by an arm of the Chinese government, said in a statement that it's terminated its lease at the Port of Tacoma where the company had planned to build one of the world's largest methanol plants. 

The company said it's still pursuing a plan to build a smaller plant in Kalama on the Columbia River. 

Mike Mozart / Flickr

Nordstrom said it's planning to cut 350 to 400 jobs, mostly in the Seattle area, as it makes changes to its business model. That represents about 5 percent of the company's Seattle workforce. 

A Nordstrom spokeswoman, Tara Darrow, said in an email that the job cuts are in addition to previously announced plans to eliminate about 130 technology positions. The fashion retailer employs a total of 70,000 people. 

Ashley Gross / KPLU

A year ago this month, a young man named Keaton Farris was found naked on the floor of his jail cell in Coupeville on Whidbey Island.

He was dead. The cause was dehydration and malnutrition.

In the wake of that terrible loss, his family has made it their mission to make sure nothing like that ever happens again at the jail. And they still await word on whether a prosecutor will file criminal charges against the people who were responsible for his care.

David Welton / Whidbey Life Magazine

As children, we all have big dreams of what we’ll do with our lives, maybe become a famous painter or an astronaut. But many of us wind up pursuing something more practical, and then it can take a lot of guts to resurrect those childhood dreams later on.

But that's exactly what 82-year-old Larry Shafer has done. After a long legal career as a trial lawyer and municipal court judge, the Whidbey Island resident has spent the past five years reconnecting with his love of music. 

401(k) 2012 / Flickr

The University of Washington has hard data showing that an unexpectedly beautiful day outside can influence how we make decisions at work. Specifically, it can lead people to become more careless.  

Reed Saxon / AP Photo

Boeing says its commercial airplanes division, which is concentrated in the Puget Sound region, will shrink by about 4,000 positions in the next few months as part of an effort to cut “billions of dollars” in costs this year.

Spokesman Doug Alder said the majority of those positions are open jobs that won’t be filled. The rest of the cuts will be achieved through attrition and voluntary layoffs. The company also said the cuts include hundreds of executives and managers.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Seattle’s affordable housing shortage has been in the headlines lately, but according to a report from Senator Maria Cantwell, the situation is even worse in Pierce County. Cantwell stopped in Tacoma to push for an expansion of a tax credit program to build more affordable housing.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

This is a big week for virtual reality, as Facebook starts shipping out the new $600 Oculus Rift to people who pre-ordered it. Later this week, Microsoft will start sending out an early version of its HoloLens augmented-reality device to developers to try out.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

As Seattle grapples with a growing homeless population, some inventors have come up with a novel solution – sleeping pods. 

Ashley Gross / KPLU

To live in the Northwest is, to some extent, to roll the dice. If you lived through the 1965 Seattle earthquake, or the Nisqually quake in 2001, or if you just read the New Yorker article about the “really big one” destined to hit our region, you know this well: There are forces under our feet that could just shrug our cities off into the abyss.

The push and pull of continental plates is so huge compared with a puny little human. And yet, for a man named Kelcy Allen, the act of a child shielded him from the seismic forces. He’s spent decades feeling grateful to the boy who died saving his life.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Port of Tacoma commissioners say they have a lot of unanswered questions about a Chinese-backed company's proposed methanol plant on port property.

Almost two years ago, the commissioners signed a 30-year lease with the company, Northwest Innovation Works, with little public input. But lately there’s been so much public outcry that the company paused the environmental review process and is now seeking an extension to the feasibility phase of the lease. 

Port of Tacoma

Northwest Innovation Works, the Chinese-backed company seeking to build one of the world’s largest methanol plants in Tacoma, says it wants to address community concerns, but at a panel discussion sponsored by the City Club of Tacoma, many people expressed frustration that they haven’t been able to get answers. 

Elaine Thompson / AP Images

(This story has been updated to include recently released data showing the number of hours an average Seattle commuter spent stuck in traffic in 2015..)

The average Seattle-area commuter wasted 66 hours stuck in traffic last year, according to the traffic data firm Inrix. Now, a group of the region’s major companies is trying to unclog our streets as part of a broader push to improve the quality of life around the Puget Sound region.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

There’s a lot of angst about Seattle’s growing tech sector these days, with people blaming it for everything from rising rents to congested streets. But comedian Bridget Quigg has found plenty of absurdities in what she calls "Techlandia."

That's the title of her one-woman comedy show, which she's performing at Seattle's Theater Schmeater this week.

Elaine Thompson / AP

As people increasingly use Uber instead of taking a taxi or riding the bus, cities such as Tacoma and Seattle have created new regulations to cover the ride-app companies. On Tuesday, Tacoma’s City Council will consider a measure to streamline its licensing process as a way to reduce the burden for city staff.

Under the proposed measure, Tacoma would still require drivers for Uber and other ride-hailing companies to get licensed by the city. But the city would no longer issue drivers a picture identification card or a decal to put on their car.

SounderBruce / Flickr

Right now, it’s illegal to live in your vehicle on a city street in Tacoma for more than 24 hours. But the Tacoma City Council will weigh a measure to extend that to seven days.

The change comes in the wake of a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling. The judges said a similar ordinance in Los Angeles that prohibited people from using a vehicle as living quarters was unconstitutionally vague. So in response to that decision, Tacoma city staff crafted a more precise definition of what it means to inhabit a vehicle, for example, sleeping in it or setting up bedding. And the city proposes allowing people a week to use a vehicle as shelter before it would be a violation.

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