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

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Boeing shares dropped almost 7 percent after Bloomberg reported the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the company’s accounting. 

According to the story, which cites unidentified people "with knowledge of the matter," securities regulators are looking into how Boeing has accounted for costs and expected sales of its 787 Dreamliner and the 747-8 jumbo jet. Spokesmen for Boeing and the SEC declined to comment. 

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Boeing Commercial Airplanes Chief Executive Ray Conner told employees during a webcast that the company will cut an undisclosed number of jobs as a way to reduce costs. 

"We will start reducing employment levels with executives and managers first," the company said in a statement. "We will also use attrition and voluntary layoffs. As a last resort, involuntary layoffs may be necessary."

Elaine Thompson / AP

Seattle was the first big city to adopt a $15 minimum wage law, and now there’s new research on how that’s affected the prices we pay at stores and restaurants.

University of Washington researchers are doing a multi-year study to analyze economic impacts of the wage hike. They started tracking consumer prices last March, right before the first wage hike to $11 an hour.

BASF / Flickr

On Wednesday, Tacoma residents will get another chance to weigh in on a plan for what could become the world’s biggest methanol plant. A lot of people have raised concerns about potential safety hazards posed by methanol itself and the process of refining it from natural gas.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Editor’s Note: This story works best as an audio experience, so we urge you to take a listen.

What if you poured your energy into becoming an opera singer, but then became famous for doing the voice of a computer in a blockbuster video game?

That’s the unexpected twist in Ellen McLain’s career. She’s performed countless roles in operas in Seattle and Tacoma and acted in many Seattle theaters.

But now the thing she’s most famous for is doing the voice of GLaDOS, the sweet-sounding but passive-aggressive computer in Valve’s hit video games Portal and Portal 2.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

There are now hard numbers to back up what Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said in a televised address earlier this week: Seattle and King County are struggling with a growing crisis of homelessness. 

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

There are legitimate questions about proposed multi-billion dollar methanol plants at the ports of Tacoma and Kalama, according to Gov. Jay Inslee. He said the plants offer benefits but their water usage and possible pollution need to be carefully considered. 

Dean Rutz / AP Photo

Seattle Police are searching for at least two people in connection with the shooting at a homeless camp south of downtown. Five people were shot Tuesday night in the unauthorized encampment known as “The Jungle.”

Seattle Police say they have leads and are interviewing witnesses in the shooting that left two people dead and three others wounded. But the perpetrators are still at large.

At a news conference, Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole said authorities believe the shooting was related to low-level drug dealing.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Boeing says it plans to reduce the production rate of its 777 wide-body jet, one of the company’s biggest sources of cash, to seven per month next year from the current rate of 8.3 per month.

“As a result of the rate change, we expect some impact on employment and will do our best to mitigate that by placing employees in other jobs across Boeing,” Boeing spokesman Doug Alder said in an emailed statement. “We are still studying how many roles may be impacted.”

Ashley Gross / KPLU

The city of Tacoma’s first public meeting about plans for the world’s largest methanol plant drew a much bigger crowd than expected. 

One fire marshal estimated that a thousand people showed up. Some couldn’t get into the main room or an overflow room because those were already full. 

Eugene Hoshiko / AP

Starbucks shares fell about 4 percent after the close of regular trading on Thursday after the company reported fiscal first-quarter results. 

In China, sales growth at the company's stores that have been open at least a year showed a slowdown, adding to recent concerns about the health of that country’s economy. 

SounderBruce / Flickr

Tacoma workers will be entitled to a minimum wage of $10.35 starting Feb. 1, up from the state’s current wage floor of $9.47. It’s the first of several hikes that will gradually phase in a $12 minimum wage approved by voters in November.  

IAM District 751

A group of Democratic lawmakers in the Washington House of Representatives is trying again to link Boeing’s tax break to the number of jobs the company keeps in the state. This time, they’ve won support from two Republicans: Rep. Cary Condotta, who represents the Wenatchee area, and Rep. Richard DeBolt from Chehalis.

Port of Tacoma

A Chinese-backed group wants to build what they say would be the world’s biggest methanol plant at the Port of Tacoma, raising lots of concerns among nearby residents, who will have a chance to weigh in on the project at a scoping meeting this Thursday. 

Zillow

If you’re a homeowner in the Seattle area, you might be interested to hear that Zillow is forecasting another jump in property values this year, driven in part because many tech workers are opting to live in and around Seattle instead of the San Francisco Bay Area. 

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Property owners are cashing in right now as Seattle’s real estate market booms.

But that’s not the main goal of Jan Johnson, owner of Seattle’s historic Panama Hotel, as she searches for someone to buy the place. She wants to ensure the hotel is preserved as a reminder of the city’s once bustling Japantown, part of what's known as the Chinatown International District, and the sad history of Japanese-American families sent to camps during World War II.

SounderBruce / Flickr

Contract talks are getting back underway between the University of Washington and a new union representing doctors in residency programs at hospitals including Harborview Medical Center, UW Medical Center and Seattle Children's. The residents say it’s a struggle to get by on what they’re paid, given the cost of living in Seattle and their student loan debt.

Andrew T. Sawyer / AP Photo

Farmworker advocacy groups are urging the state to investigate questionable responses by farmers to a survey about how much they pay their workers. 

A.F. Litt / Flickr

Janitors who worked in Fred Meyer stores in Washington state are suing the company and its subcontractors in a class-action lawsuit alleging that they were forced to work off the clock. 

This is a case that involves layers of contractors and a big corporation at the top – Fred Meyer, which is owned by Kroger.

The janitors were employed by a subcontractor, MH Janitorial, which has since gone out of business. They say MH failed to pay them for work they did after their shift was supposed to end.

SnoShuu / Flickr

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in mid-January in a case that could have big ramifications for public-sector unions in Washington state. 

It's called Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, and the case concerns whether it’s okay that states such as California and Washington require public-sector employees to pay their union an “agency fee” for the cost of collective bargaining even if those workers opt out of paying the full amount of dues because they don’t want their money to go toward the union’s political activities. 

Greeley Tribune

Editor’s note: KPLU has hired an independent editor to oversee coverage of this story.

Last month, KPLU listeners were surprised to find out that Pacific Lutheran University, which owns KPLU's license, was planning to sell the station to the University of Washington. UW operates a rival public radio station, KUOW. 

PARKER MILES BLOHM / KPLU

Pacific Lutheran University and the University of Washington have extended their deadline for signing the asset purchase agreement of KPLU until Jan. 15. They originally set Dec. 18 as the deadline for signing and then submitting it to the Federal Communications Commission for approval. 

Elaine Thompson / AP

Alaska Airlines and other plaintiffs are continuing their long legal battle over SeaTac’s $15 minimum wage law. They’ve asked a King County Superior Court judge to set a trial date so they can present evidence about how the higher minimum wage would interfere with airport operations. 

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

UPDATE: In its meeting Monday, the Seattle City Council voted 8-0 to approve a measure that allows drivers for ride-hailing companies to unionize.

Seattle’s City Council will take up an ordinance on Monday that lawyers say is unprecedented. The council is scheduled to vote on whether to allow drivers for ride-hailing companies such as Uber to form unions and collectively bargain for better pay. 

Ashley Gross / KPLU

The people who build and design airplanes for Boeing in the Puget Sound region have been the focus of a unique, two-decade-long study. A team of professors from the University of Puget Sound has surveyed thousands of Boeing workers to track how the company has transformed over time, and what that’s meant for employees.

Stefan Hampden / Cast Architecture

Since 2010, Seattle has allowed homeowners to build cottages in their backyards, but only about 200 have been built. Now officials are trying to come up with ways to stimulate construction of cottages as part of a plan to create more housing in a rapidly growing city. 

Joshua Rappeneker / Flickr

This past year, there’s been a push among big corporations, including Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook, to expand paid leave for new moms and dads.

Local governments are also boosting benefits. Earlier this year, Seattle began offering city workers four weeks of paid leave after birth or an adoption, and now King County will start piloting 12 weeks of paid parental leave in the new year.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

The ride-app company Uber says it now has 10,000 active drivers in the Seattle region. It’s an example of what’s come to be called the “gig economy,” in which people use apps such as Uber or Airbnb to make some extra dough.

But author Steven Hill says these workers who are classified by the companies as independent contractors are being left behind because they lack benefits and the safety net of traditional employment. Workers such as these are sometimes called “1099 workers” because of the tax form they file instead of the regular W-2 form that employees use.

Ted S. Warren / AP

A top executive from the ride-app company Uber is in Seattle to talk about how the company is helping the region. That comes while the Seattle City Council weighs an unusual ordinance that would allow drivers for Uber, Lyft and taxi companies to unionize.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

The big news rocking the design world today is the announcement of not one, but two colors of the year for 2016. For the first time, the trend forecasting company Pantone has unveiled two selections – a light blue called Serenity and a pink called Rose Quartz. So keep your eyes peeled for everything from cardigans to coffee makers in those hues next year.

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