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

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.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Rev. Jesse Jackson has once again traveled to the Puget Sound region to push tech giants to hire more minorities and women, but at Microsoft’s annual shareholders’ meeting, he also gave praise. 

Toby Scott / Flickr

Now that Seattle’s $15 minimum wage is being phased in, the mayor is proposing tougher rules to enforce it, including allowing workers to sue employers for violations and receive damages if they win.

A new non-profit legal group in Seattle  called the Washington Wage Claim Project aims to help workers do that. 

Naval Facilities Engineering Command Northwest

Democratic Rep. Derek Kilmer says the way a new submarine wharf is being built on the Kitsap Peninsula should be a model for other federal projects. He says it was the first time the Department of Defense used a special labor agreement that’s supposed to ensure local workers get hired.

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?

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