Ashley Gross

Business and Labor Reporter

Ashley Gross is KPLU's business and labor reporter, covering everything from 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 / Associated Press

Seattle City Council Member Kshama Sawant is criticizing Mayor Ed Murray’s newly created affordable housing committee, saying the group is skewed toward developers with not enough low-income housing advocates.

King County WA / Flickr

The economy in King County is booming, but county government is planning to cut more than 500 jobs to balance its budget. King County Executive Dow Constantine says the problem is that state laws restrict the ability of local government to raise taxes to keep up with growth. 

Many residents of public housing in Seattle are facing the possibility of steep rent hikes. They’ll have a chance this week at two public hearings to voice their concerns about the Seattle Housing Authority’s plan.

Seattle Housing Authority provides subsidized housing for about 13,000 low-income households. The agency sets the rent at 30 percent of the tenant’s income. But now, SHA is proposing to raise rent every couple of years. By the sixth year, it would have jumped more than fivefold. People with disabilities, the elderly and people under the age of 24 would be exempt.

Loco Steve / Flickr

A union representing railroad conductors and switchmen has rejected a plan from BNSF Railway to operate some freight trains with a single employee. Many union members said the proposal raised serious safety concerns. 

BNSF runs important routes throughout the Pacific Northwest, from British Columbia to Portland and across the country.

Battles over labor law are usually the stuff of Congress or state legislatures. But a conservative group says people who want to reduce the power of public employee unions should take matters into their own hands and change laws, city by city.

Zac Davis Photography

Zac Davis has lived all around the Puget Sound region — Issaquah, Bellevue, Bremerton, Bainbridge Island. But about six years ago, he moved to Seattle’s Rainier Beach neighborhood.

He was drawn to the vibrancy of the area, pulsing with different languages and cultures. He describes this as we walk down the street, past African women with their heads covered and moving smoothly in their long robes.

“In my cul-de-sac alone, there’s probably four languages spoken, and yet we manage to have a block party every summer,” he said. “It makes us stronger.”

The union that represents about 33,000 independent home care workers in Washington says it has reached a tentative contract with the state that would boost their average hourly pay to more than $14 by the beginning of 2017. 

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Cybercriminals, terrorists, white collar bankers - U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan has taken on all of them in her five years on the job in Western Washington. Now, she says she’s stepping down at the end of the month after holding the post for five years.

She was among the first six U.S. attorneys nominated by President Barack Obama in May 2009 and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in September 2009.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to clarify the timeline of when Microsoft opened its Nevada office and when the state lowered its royalty tax. The updated version also adds that Microsoft declined to say how much state royalty tax the company has paid.

The Service Employees International Union Healthcare 775 Northwest represents about 33,000 independent home care workers in Washington state. Their union dues are automatically deducted by the state of Washington, which pays the workers using public money, including Medicaid funds.

But a lawsuit is challenging that arrangement, drawing on the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision (Harris v. Quinn), and that potentially threatens the union's financial strength. 

Ashley Gross

Alaska Airlines executives and flight attendants are back at the bargaining table this week with a federal mediator, but the workers say they’re frustrated by the slow pace of contract negotiations which have dragged on for almost three years. 

Union leaders and the company did reach a tentative deal late last year, but members rejected it.

Low-income residents Washington state are disproportionately burdened by debt, according to a new report by the grassroots advocacy group Alliance for a Just Society. 

One reason: increasing student loan debt. The report says the average student loan debt at graduation in Washington jumped 23 percent from 2008 to 2012 to a total of more than $23,000. And the average credit card debt in the state is more than $5,000.

Jae C. Hong / AP Photo

Former Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer is leaving the board of the software company he led for 14 years.

In a letter released on Microsoft's website, Ballmer said he has confidence in new CEO Satya Nadella, and he has no plans to sell his shares in the "foreseeable future." Ballmer said he holds more shares than anyone other than index funds. 

The head of the VA Puget Sound Health Care System, Michael Murphy, says the agency is making progress in getting veterans in to see a primary care doctor, but he says there’s still a lot more work to do to improve care for veterans in this region. 

Ashley Gross

Everett is a step closer to becoming the home of Boeing’s next wide-body jet assembly. The company has started demolition work on three buildings that will be torn down to make way for the new 777X composite wing center. 

Ashley Gross

The ongoing labor dispute at a large Skagit Valley berry farm has flared up again. Workers at Sakuma Brothers Farms walked out on Monday to protest the firing of an employee who has been active in workplace organizing.

Ashley Gross

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., is pushing a plan to give parents a bigger tax credit for child care expenses. The high-ranking Democrat and former preschool teacher dropped in at a downtown Seattle daycare center Thursday to publicize the legislation, called the Helping Working Families Afford Child Care Act.

Paul Sableman / Flickr

More than 3,000 people were found sleeping outside in King County during the last one-night count of homeless people in January. And come fall and winter, the lack of emergency shelter space may worsen in Seattle. 

compdude787 / Flickr

With four vessels out of service, users of Washington state’s ferry system are coping with disruptions all around Puget Sound. In Anacortes, the international ferry to Sidney, British Columbia is canceled through Friday, and business leaders in Anacortes say they’re concerned that hotels could be hurt on the town’s busiest weekend of the year.  

Matthew Brown / AP Photo

Railroad workers are speaking out against a proposal by Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway to have single-employee freight train crews. They say the idea is unsafe, especially in light of the increasing transportation of crude oil by rail.


In the world of online real estate companies, Seattle-based Zillow has dominated headlines lately with its plans to purchase rival Trulia. Is that bad news for Redfin, another competitor based in Seattle?

The Associated Press

The union representing Boeing engineers has filed age-discrimination charges against the company with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Washington State Human Rights Commission.

The move comes in the wake of a series of announcements by Boeing that said the company is shifting thousands of engineering jobs to other states.


On a morning when a fire at a Seattle City Light substation knocked out power to customers including the Monorail, the utility’s CEO happened to be in city council chambers answering questions about safety. 

Seattle City Council members brought CEO Jorge Carrasco into an energy committee meeting to discuss a string of recent embarrassing news stories, including Seattle City Light’s effort to suppress unflattering online search results.

But public testimony at the meeting steered toward the issue of employee safety.

The head of Seattle City Light wanted positive news stories and even hired a reputation-management firm to help achieve that. Instead, he’s been facing a flurry of negative news stories and on Thursday, CEO Jorge held a news conference to apologize for mistakes he’s made.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Washington state businesses are following with growing anxiety a debate in the other Washington over the future of the Export-Import Bank. Today, members of a Congressional committee are holding a hearing on whether the obscure federal agency amounts to corporate welfare.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

The Port of Seattle Commission has introduced a plan to set a higher minimum wage for workers at Sea-Tac International Airport.

The resolution would lift the minimum wage to $11.22 per hour this coming January, then increase the wage to $13 by 2017. The port would also require employers to provide paid days off to their workers.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

It’s been almost six months since some transportation and hospitality workers in the city of SeaTac got a raise to $15 an hour, but ground crew workers at the airport haven’t received that raise because of a county judge’s ruling.

David Cravioto

Even as the summer berry season gets underway, some of the workers who pick those berries have been battling with a Skagit County farm in court. They’ve challenged Sakuma Brothers Farms over its new policy to no longer provide housing for workers’ family members.