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

Seattle Housing Authority

The Seattle Housing Authority says some people applying for low-income housing vouchers have fallen victim to fraudulent web sites.

The agency just this week opened its lottery for people trying to get on the waitlist for housing choice vouchers. Those are federally funded subsidies that help low-income people pay rent.

Plymouth Housing

King County has been working to reduce homelessness, but the need for housing and shelter is still large. In Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood, 81 homeless people will soon move into a brand-new building called the Pat Williams Apartments.

Anyone in need of subsidized housing has a rare opportunity this month. For the first time in five years, the Seattle Housing Authority is opening its waitlist for low-income housing vouchers

Ashley Gross / KPLU

About 21,000 Boeing engineers and technicians will vote on whether to authorize a strike. The threat of a walkout comes at a bad time for Boeing as the company tries to fix its 787 Dreamliner.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Boeing Chief Executive Jim McNerney says the company plans to keep boosting 787 Dreamliner production even while the planes are grounded for a battery investigation.

The grounding of the 787 Dreamliner worldwide after two battery failures dominated Boeing’s 2012 earnings conference call. McNerney says the company still plans to produce 10 Dreamliners a month by the end of this year – twice its current rate.

Boeing is scrambling to figure out why batteries malfunctioned on its 787, prompting officials to ground the airplane this month. And at a time when Boeing most needs its skilled engineers, they're weighing a possible strike. Union leaders are considering the company's final contract offer.

The standoff between Boeing and about 23,000 engineers and technicians — mostly in the Seattle region — has been brewing for months. Dozens of them recently packed a union hall south of Seattle for training in how to run a picket line.

Luke Lai

The grounding of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner has been a big blow to Japan – both its airlines and its aerospace industry. It’s a reflection of the strong ties between Boeing and Japan.

Japanese airlines have been very loyal to Boeing for decades. They have almost half of the 787 Dreamliners delivered so far. All Nippon Airways was the launch customer.

Scott Le Duc

Starbucks says profit in its most recent quarter climbed 13 percent as the coffee giant benefits from a big push into Asia.

Dell's Official Flickr Page

Microsoft says sales rose about 3 percent in its most recent quarter. But analysts say the company still has to contend with a slowing market for personal computers.

NTSB

The head of the National Transportation Safety Board says the investigation into what went wrong with two batteries on Boeing 787s will still take a while to finish. 

U.S. Embassy New Delhi

If you’re looking forward to a long weekend, you’re in the minority. The number of employers closing for business on Martin Luther King Jr. Day has been inching up in recent years, but it’s still only 32 percent.

Boeing has raised its salary offer to its engineers and technicians, but the union is still complaining that it doesn’t adequately compensate its members.

Federal mediators have been brokering talks this week between the company and the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, or SPEEA.

Port of Tacoma

A team of economists at the University of Puget Sound say strength in military spending and port traffic will help lift Pierce County’s economy this year.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

The national economy will continue to climb out of the recession this year, and the Puget Sound region is forecast to do even better. That’s the word from an economic forecast conference in Seattle. 

SPEEA

When Boeing engineers and technicians walked off the job 13 years ago, they said it wasn’t just for more money. They wanted to improve the culture of the company and chart a new course for organized labor. Did they succeed?

At first blush, it looked like a resounding success. The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, or SPEEA, had won a contract with everything they had asked for. Executive Director Charlie Bofferding was triumphant in an interview with KING 5.

“We’re interacting now based on power and respect, and that’s where we want to be,” Bofferding said.

SPEEA

Boeing engineers and the company are supposed to meet with a federal mediator today – but union leaders say the two sides are still far apart. Looming over the negotiations is a memory that's 13 years old, but still fresh for many.

In early 2000, Boeing engineers and technicians did what nobody expected them to do – walk off the job and stay off.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Boeing appears to have reclaimed the crown from Airbus as the world’s top commercial airplane maker. 

Much of that stems from strong execution on the  787 Dreamliner, a plane that until recently was the butt of jokes for being three years late. Yair Reiner is an analyst with Oppenheimer & Co. in New York.

"For an industry that had grown really accustomed to having the 787 perpetually miss its targets, in 2012, it hit them," Reiner said.

touristguy87

Tomorrow is a big day for Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry. The museum is hosting a grand opening at its new location near South Lake Union in the former Naval Reserve Armory. The museum will be free all day, with special events like musical performances and craft activities.

Leonard Garfield, executive director of the museum known as MOHAI, says they’ve greatly expanded their collection.

Mike Dole

We’ve made it past the psychological hurdle of solstice, so we can look forward to more daylight – eventually. But in the weeks before we really can notice a difference, how do you cope with the darkness?

Folks in downtown Seattle shared their tips, including:

"I don't care if it's raining or not, if I have to go out to run, I go out and run," said Kassonga Mwamba, who's originally from South Africa.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

File this story under the category, "I should have thought of that." A team of Seattle entrepreneurs has created a souvenir that pokes fun at our soggy climate. Their invention? "RainGlobes" - that's their trademarked name.

If you read a lot of articles on the Tacoma News Tribune web site, you’re going to have to start paying. The News-Tribune is joining the growing ranks of newspapers that are saying no more free lunch when it comes to reading online.

State inspectors have opened an investigation after more than 50 workers at Sea-Tac International Airport filed complaints over working conditions.

The complaints come from a wide range of ground-crew workers – people who operate refueling trucks, people who clean airplanes, people who push passengers around by wheelchair. Some say they’ve had to clean up blood and vomit without proper training or protection like gloves. Others say they have to work with inadequate equipment, like nozzles that leak jet fuel and trucks with faulty brakes.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Dozens of visually impaired people with white canes and guide dogs protested outside Amazon.com’s headquarters in Seattle today. They say Amazon’s Kindle e-readers aren’t fully accessible to the blind

thekellyscope

Update: An Amazon.com spokeswoman did return my call after this story aired, but declined to comment.

Blind people – including former New York Governor David Paterson – are planning to protest at Amazon.com today. They want the company to make its Kindle device and apps more accessible to the visually impaired, especially kids as e-readers start to be used in schools. 

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Contract talks between Boeing and its engineers union are suspended till after the new year. But the union, SPEEA, is not standing still - they're training picket captains for a possible strike.

Premshree Pillai

Disputes between workers and management have dominated headlines lately – the Hostess bakery shutdown, protests at Walmart, engineers pitted against Boeing.

But there is another business model that promises greater harmony – worker-owned cooperatives. A team of filmmakers from Whidbey Island, Melissa  Young and Mark Dworkin, has just released a documentary about worker-owned businesses called Shift Change. It screens Thursday night in Seattle at Pacific Place Theater. Young spoke with KPLU about the film.

The president of the Seattle City Council says the state needs to make sure it adequately funds schools – and that may mean the state has to raise taxes. 

The state of Washington faces a grim budget deficit – more than $2.5 billion over the next two years, by one estimate. At the same time, the state also has to boost money for schools, according to a state supreme court decision.

Tacoma’s City Council will vote this afternoon to slash the city budget by 15 percent - with cuts to pretty much everything, including the police and fire departments.

City Manager T.C. Broadnax took the job in February from San Antonio, Texas. He says he knew Tacoma had some cutting to do – but as he dug into the numbers, he realized spending was deeply out of whack and anticipated revenue was not there.

The housing slump continues to hurt property tax revenue,and  money from sales tax hasn’t bounced back. Broadnax says Tacoma had been trying to put off cuts for years.

The Associated Press

After months of unsuccessful contract negotiations, Boeing says it wants a federal mediator to help resolve its contract dispute with SPEEA, the union that represents about 23,000 engineers and technicians in the Puget Sound region.

The CBI

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer stood in front of shareholders today telling them what a tremendous year it’s been. But they wanted to know, why should we own the stock?

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