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

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?

JD Lasica

Amazon.com and Microsoft are two of the cash-rich companies that investors speculate may be interested in buying Netflix. But would either of them want to? One analyst says he doubts it.

Activist investor Carl Icahn kicked up the takeover speculation last month when he disclosed that he’s bought 10 percent of Netflix. He says Netflix is too small on its own and needs to be bought by a bigger company – like Amazon, Microsoft or Google.

djLicious

Some shoppers are gearing up to hit the stores this evening for Black Friday sales that have now crept into Thursday. Sears and Walmart are starting their sales at 8 pm, and Target at 9 pm. But what motivates people to brave the Black Friday shopping frenzy?

Jane Boyd Thomas is a marketing professor at Winthrop University in South Carolina. She wanted to understand the ritual of Black Friday shopping – why some people have turned it into a family tradition.

The union representing Boeing engineers is moving closer to a strike authorization. That’s because union leadership is frustrated with the aerospace giant’s second contract offer.

Boeing is now offering higher annual wage increases than its first proposal, which 96 percent of engineers and technicians rejected. But the increases are still lower than the current contract. That’s one reason the union – known as SPEEA – is disappointed.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

As parents gear up to shop for the holidays, a non-profit consumer group is warning them to watch out for dangerous toys.

For the past 27 years, the Washington Public Interest Research Group, or WashPIRG, has released a report on toxic and hazardous toys. This year, the group is pointing to many toys that meet federal standards but still pose a danger.

Oran Viriyincy

Bus riders all over the Puget Sound region are coping with cuts in service, but Pierce County is facing something much more drastic.

If you don’t have a car in Pierce County, you may be homebound on the weekends and after 7 pm. That’s because voters have now – for the second time – rejected a sales tax increase. Pierce Transit will likely have to cut service in half.

mekiaries

Everyone from Boeing to fish processors and apple growers stands to benefit if the U.S. normalizes trade relations with Russia. That’s coming up for a vote Friday in the House of Representatives.

Russia joined the World Trade Organization in August and lowered a whole bunch of tariffs on things like airplanes and fish.

seadevi

Paul Allen’s real estate company Vulcan wants to give the city of Seattle land in the South Lake Union neighborhood. In exchange, the company wants the right to build taller towers.

The Seattle city council is working to rezone the South Lake Union neighborhood to allow taller buildings. That’s something Vulcan very much wants. The city requires developers to either build affordable units in their towers or pay the city extra money for affordable housing if they build above a certain height.

Now that the election is over, Washington, D.C. has turned its focus to averting the so-called fiscal cliff. But Washington Senator Patty Murray says going over the cliff should be an option.

The fiscal cliff refers to the Bush-era tax cuts that expire at the end of the year and the deep spending cuts that will take place. Senator Murray has been saying for some time now that Democrats shouldn’t be too afraid of the fiscal cliff.

Bill Holmes

Nordstrom says profit and sales climbed in the most recent quarter, although earnings came in just below what analysts predicted.

Nordstrom says men’s shoes, men’s apparel and kids’ clothes did especially well. Morningstar analyst Paul Swinand says the company’s also doing well online. He says brick-and-mortar retailers like Nordstrom may have been late to the game but they’re reaping the benefits of e-commerce.

Nimataradji photography / Flickr

Foes of the same-sex marriage referendum in Washington have conceded the law will pass. The group that sponsored Referendum 74 declared victory yesterday.

Now that voters have legalized recreational marijuana in Washington state, the question is whether the federal government will sue to block it. One legal expert says he expects a court challenge.

Washington’s initiative 502 doesn’t just legalize possession of small quantities of marijuana. It sets up a system for licensing cultivation and sale of the drug and then imposes a tax system. Sam Kamin is a professor of law at the University of Denver. He says he thinks the federal government will determine that Washington’s law is going too far and will challenge it in court.

The Associated Press

Washington joined Colorado in voting to become the first states to legalize and tax the sale of marijuana for recreational use, but people shouldn't expect to be able to buy a bag of legitimate weed any time soon.

Nor should they expect the law to go into effect with out a fight with federal law agencies, said Sam Kamin, professor of law at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.

“My gut feeling is that the federal government won’t currently tolerate the commercial recreational sale of marijuana, that is they will not allow it to be regulated like alcohol. That just seems a bridge too far,” he said.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

People in Seattle City Hall live and breathe politics. For the past few months, they’ve also been able to eat politics. Obama and Romney sugar cookies have been selling well at the City Grind Espresso stand at Seattle City Hall, although owner Jon Streeter says there hasn't been quite the same hype as in 2008.

"They've been steady, and I think there are more places to get them, so I think overall they're probably  selling as well, but for us they're not nearly the big deal they were four years ago," Streeter said.

Big Dubya / Flickr

This is the first presidential election in which no one in Washington is voting in a voting booth. Lots of people prefer voting by mail – it’s convenient, they don’t have to rush from work to get to the polls before they close. But in downtown Seattle, KPLU found lots of people who wax nostalgic for the good old days of voting in person - among them, Terri Vail, Antonio Hicks, Brad Bloomquist, and Peter Orange.

All you political junkies with iPhones and Android devices … there’s an app waiting for you.

The election results mobile app from the Washington Secretary of State’s office will give you up-to-date results for all federal, state and local races. The secretary of state’s office released the iPhone app two years ago and added the Android one this year because of strong demand.

Konabish - Greg Bishop

A tentative contract between pilots and Horizon Air includes more rest time between flights. That reflects a federal rule that goes into effect by early 2014, one that may prompt many other airlines to renegotiate pilot contracts.

The new rule requiring longer rest times is aimed at reducing pilot fatigue. It came in the wake of a Colgan Air crash near Buffalo, New York, in 2009 – in which sleep-deprivation may have played a role.

John-Morgan

Taxes have loomed large this election season. Can we jumpstart the economy by changing the tax system? Should the rich pay more or less?

These are hotly debated issues and for perspective, we turned to two experts on opposite ends of the political spectrum. In an earlier interview, Robert Reich, who was President Clinton’s labor secretary, explained why he thinks the tax system needs to do more to redistribute wealth from the rich toward the poor and middle class.

imacgyv0r

Starbucks is continuing to thrive despite a lackluster economy. The coffee giant is raising its profit target for the coming fiscal year and says it plans to add 1,300 new stores around the world. 

People may be feeling strapped these days, but they’re still indulging in lattes at Starbucks. The company says sales climbed 11 percent in the most recent quarter, and Starbucks expects revenue to grow as much as 13 percent next year.

R.J. Hottovy is an analyst for Morningstar who covers Starbucks.

401(K) 2012

The middle class is struggling. The rich are growing richer.

Is there anything we can do to stem rising income inequality? Would changes to our tax system help?

In the final days before the election, KPLU asked two experts – one liberal, one conservative – to weigh in on what to do about income inequality and how to fix our tax system.

The funny people behind the web site I Can Has Cheezburger – known for its silly cat pictures – are getting their own TV show.

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