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

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

On the day that Chinese President Xi Jinping toured Boeing's wide-body jet factory in Everett, Boeing announced a deal to sell 300 airplanes to Chinese airlines and leasing companies and build a 737 completion and delivery center in China. 

Elaine Thompson / AP

Clean energy is a big part of the Chinese president’s agenda while he’s in Seattle. That includes a focus on nuclear power – an issue that Microsoft founder Bill Gates has been working on. 

In 2006, Gates helped launch a Bellevue-based company called TerraPower. He invested money in it and became chairman. TerraPower is working on what Gates calls a next-generation nuclear reactor.

The reactor that TerraPower is working on uses depleted uranium for fuel. Essentially, it would run on nuclear waste. Gates says that’s more fuel efficient and safer.

SounderBruce / Flickr

The strong economic ties between China and Washington state are in the spotlight this week with the upcoming visit by China’s president. Real estate development has gotten a boost from Chinese investors in recent years, but one key program that facilitates that investment is set to expire this month. 

Saul Loeb / AP

When the Chinese president visits Seattle next week, he’ll take time to drop in at a Tacoma high school. That visit is the result of lots of behind-the-scenes effort in Tacoma and in the Chinese city of Fuzhou. The two municipalities have long ties with each other.

Gregory Youtz is the chair of the Tacoma Fuzhou Sister City Program and a music professor at Pacific Lutheran University. He says a lot of Chinese people will be exposed to Tacoma because of the president’s visit.

Eino Sierpe / Flickr

Washington businesses that want to have a role in shaping minimum wage policies will get a chance to talk strategy this week. The Association of Washington Business is holding its annual policy summit, with one panel devoted to the hot-button issue of minimum wage hikes. 

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

The Seattle teachers strike is now in its third day, and it’s stirring up memories for people who lived through past strikes, especially 35 miles north of Seattle in Marysville, which set a state record for the longest teacher walkout.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

There’s a new twist in the legal battle over the city of SeaTac’s $15 minimum wage ordinance. Alaska Airlines and other businesses are now asking the Washington Supreme Court to reverse its recent opinion, in which five of nine justices ruled that SeaTac’s minimum wage applies to workers at Sea-Tac International Airport.

The plaintiffs list a number of reasons why the court should reconsider, including their argument that SeaTac's minimum wage ordinance conflicts with federal labor law because the city law tries to do too much.

Chethan Shankar

Tourists visiting the Space Needle on Labor Day will see workers out picketing, as the unionized workforce at the Space Needle continues to put pressure on the private owners of Seattle’s iconic landmark. 

The labor dispute has been going on for years. The workers are represented by Unite Here Local 8, and their union has been pushing for a contract with protections against outsourcing of jobs.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

The death of a dairy farm worker in February is prompting a push for tougher safety laws and labor groups are asking the milk cooperative, Darigold, to meet to talk about improvements that can be made to protect workers. 

Sound Transit Special Selection / Flickr

Tacoma’s municipal broadband service, Click Network, has long been a point of pride. But now city officials are wrestling with the future of Click because it’s losing cable TV customers and facing higher programming costs.

In the late 1990s, Tacoma invested heavily to create Click with the hope of spurring economic development, but it’s struggled in recent years.

photo courtesy of Nubia Guajardo

Labor groups are planning a protest on Wednesday outside the Seattle headquarters of Darigold. They say the milk-processing company's parent, the dairy farm cooperative known as the Northwest Dairy Association, needs to do more to improve employee safety after a young worker’s death earlier this year. 

photo courtesy of Alyssa Menes

People who love games – everything from ones on the computer to board games – will dominate downtown Seattle this weekend attending the convention known as PAX Prime. People there can try out brand new games, learn how to make their own, or attend panels, including one about writing music for video games.

Alyssa Menes, a young woman composer from New Jersey, is one of the panelists.   

She grew up playing classic Nintendo games from the 1980s, games such as The Legend of Zelda, Mario, and Kid Icarus, and fell in love with those tunes.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

In a long anticipated decision, the Washington State Supreme Court has ruled the $15-an-hour minimum wage law narrowly approved by voters in the city of SeaTac in fall 2013 applies at Sea-Tac International Airport.

The court's 5-4 decision means that about 4,700 workers ranging from restaurant employees to baggage handlers should now be paid $15.24 an hour.

Nick Ut / AP Photo

A class-action lawsuit focused on the retirement accounts for about 190,000 Boeing employees and retirees heads to trial next week. The lawsuit, which was first filed nearly nine years ago, accuses Boeing of offering employees 401(k) retirement plans that charged excessive fees. 

AP Images

After a big public outcry, Seattle has scrapped a plan to allow a wider variety of housing types in areas zoned for single family homes.  But the idea is still alive in Tacoma, as the city considers changes to its comprehensive plan.

The proposal from Tacoma's Planning Commission would result in a mixture of lot sizes and home sizes, with some smaller houses such as cottages and detached mother-in-law units allowed.

Photo courtesy of Tiffany Ferrians

Amid the arts and crafts and concerts of Hempfest in Seattle this weekend, there will be one group of people delivering a somber message. Friends and family of Keaton Farris, the young man who died of dehydration and malnutrition in an Island County jail earlier this year, will hand out water bottles with his picture on the label as a way to raise awareness about the disturbing circumstances of his death.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Boeing shares are up 8 percent this year and revenue has been climbing but the company still faces some big challenges. One of them is how to build 787s more cheaply.

Chief Financial Officer Greg Smith told investors at a conference in New York the company is working hard on that.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

You’re in downtown Seattle getting ready to drive onto the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Then, an alert comes over the radio or shows up on your phone saying an earthquake is about to strike, allowing you to pull over and avoid being on the elevated highway when it could collapse.

That’s an example of how getting even just a few seconds’ warning before a big earthquake hits could save lives. Such an alert system for the Pacific Northwest is being tested right now.

AP Photo

Seattle had a starring role in the corruption scandal that engulfed the Teamsters union in the late 1950s. That’s when it became clear that Dave Beck, the Seattle-based Teamster president, was stealing money from the organization.

Notorious labor leader Jimmy Hoffa, known for his close ties to mobsters, rose to power after Beck, even after coming under federal scrutiny himself. Robert F. Kennedy, chief counsel for a Senate investigating committee, led the charge to bring him to justice.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Some news reports say the 2016 presidential campaign could cost twice as much as the 2012 race. People in Washington state who are disgusted by all the money flowing into politics are gathering signatures to try to amend the U.S. Constitution.

Diane Tilstra is one of them. She remembers vaguely hearing about the 2010 Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case.

“Just on a peripheral level, I was paying attention to it and thinking, `Gee, that doesn’t sound good,’” she said.

Microsoft

Microsoft’s new operating system, Windows 10, includes a feature they hope people will find particularly useful – a virtual kind of butler ready to help you manage your life.

The digital personal assistant is named Cortana and has already been available on Windows Phones. She takes her name from the artificial intelligence character in the video game Halo.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

If you think Seattle’s already struggling with growth, imagine adding another 120,000 people. That’s the jump in population the city expects over the next two decades.

But where do you put those folks?

People in neighborhoods such as Ballard say there’s already too much construction.

NASA / Flickr

Boeing says it’s confident the company will still be able to deliver 18 tanker aircraft to the U.S. Air Force two years from now in spite of problems that emerged in the most recent quarter. 

The KC-46 tanker program was the focus of a big fight between Boeing and Airbus for years before the contract finally went to Boeing. Now, the first tankers are being built in Everett.

Jeff Chiu / AP Photo

Microsoft shares slumped more than 3 percent after the company reported a net loss of $3.2 billion in the most recent quarter as it wrote down much of the value of its Nokia acquisition.

Total revenue fell 5 percent in the June quarter, with a 13 percent drop in Microsoft's Devices and Consumer division, which included a steep drop in revenue from Windows due to declining personal computer sales. Revenue in the commercial side of the business was little changed from a year earlier.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Boeing violated labor law by not giving information to its engineers’ union regarding plans for moving jobs out of the Puget Sound region, a National Labor Relations Board administrative law judge has ruled.

Boeing spokesman Doug Alder said the company disagrees with the ruling and expects to appeal the decision.

I-5 Design and Manufacture / Flickr

Tacoma is ground zero for the state's next big minimum wage battle.

The city council voted 7-1 to put an initiative on the November ballot to hike the minimum wage in phases over the next three years, reaching $12 an hour in January 2018. After that, the minimum wage would rise every year at the rate of inflation.

AP Images

The Tacoma News Tribune reported Thursday that the Department of Defense will cut 1,250 service members from the enlisted ranks at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Lakewood in upcoming weeks along with an undisclosed number of civilian jobs.

According to the TNT: 

JBLM will lose about 1,250 soldiers, according to four state government and congressional sources who are familiar with a plan the Pentagon presented to lawmakers Wednesday. The Army also plans to cut an as-yet unspecified number of civilians from JBLM’s workforce.

Read the full story here.

Phossil / Flickr

It’s been just over a year since Microsoft bought Nokia’s phone business, and now the software company is admitting it hasn’t gone according to plan. Microsoft will cut 7,800 jobs – mostly in that phone division – and take an impairment charge of $7.6 billion, almost as much as it spent to buy Nokia. 

Microsoft wouldn’t disclose how many jobs in the Puget Sound region will be lost, but a spokesman says most of the layoffs will happen outside the U.S. Overall, the job cuts amount to more than 6 percent of Microsoft’s workforce.

Ashley Gross

A committee tasked with finding answers to Seattle’s shortage of affordable housing is considering allowing a wider variety of housing in areas currently zoned for single-family homes. 

According to a leaked draft first reported in the Seattle Times, Mayor Ed Murray’s housing advisory committee is considering completely doing away with the single-family home designation for zoning. 

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Seattle is in the middle of a development boom that many people argue is proceeding without enough limits set by the city. The city council has now voted to tighten some zoning regulations but one councilman says they don’t go far enough. 

Some parts of Seattle are zoned for low-rise multi-family development that allows for three- to four-story buildings. But Ballard residents, for example have complained that when the city council updated the code five years ago, they made it possible for developers to build things that are out of proportion with the rest of the neighborhood.

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