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

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. 

Courtesy of Carolyn Corvi.

Editor's Note: “Senior Thesis” is a special week-long series that brings together venerable veterans in various fields with university students hoping to forge a career in the same field.

Jaime Katzer showed up at the studio in her best business attire, excited but a little nervous. The University of Washington senior was here to meet a woman who from the outside appears fearless.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

The owner of an African hair-braiding salon has filed a suit against the state Department of Licensing in the latest move by a cottage industry that has fought to limit what they call unnecessary regulations.

RMI Expeditions

The big day has arrived for Bruce Stobie, the blind mountain climber featured in a KPLU story last month

Stobie flew to the base camp of Denali Thursday morning to begin his expedition. The Maple Valley man is aiming to become the fourth blind person to climb North America’s tallest mountain.

Bellamy Pailthorp

Sakuma Brothers Farms, one of Washington state’s largest berry farms, has agreed to pay $850,000 to settle a lawsuit filed its workers.

The berry pickers sued last year, alleging they were denied rest breaks and weren’t paid for all the hours they worked. The lawyers representing the pickers said this is the state's largest settlement involving farmworker wages and hours on record.

AP Photo

Franchise owners have followed through on their threat to sue the city of Seattle over the new $15 minimum wage ordinance. They say they’re small business owners who are being unfairly treated as large corporations under the new law.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

The union that represents home care workers across Washington state is calling for a new contract that phases in a $15-an-hour minimum wage. They’re hoping Seattle’s recent vote to gradually hike the wage floor will help bolster their argument. 

A Seattle apartment development company that has been building so-called aPodments will have to retrofit one of its complexes to make the building accessible for people with disabilities following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

APodments are micro-housing developments that have been springing up around Seattle in the past couple of years. They consist of a number of small apartments with shared kitchens and common areas. 

Centro LLC is the owner and developer of the building in question, a 56-unit Capitol Hill property managed by Calhoun Property Management.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

People in Seattle are familiar with the H-1B visa program that brings high-tech employees from abroad, but another, more obscure foreign worker program has churned up a lot of controversy in the state recently.

Bellamy Pailthorp

After a tumultuous year in which berry pickers at a Skagit County farm went on repeated strikes, a new group appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee is set to start tackling farm labor issues. 

Brett Davis / Washington Farm Bureau

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Seattle’s low-wage workers are closer to getting a raise. A city council committee unanimously voted to pass Mayor Ed Murray’s minimum wage plan, with some amendments.

Even Socialist city council member Kshama Sawant, who’s criticized the measure as too watered down, said it’s a victory for workers. 

The plan phases in a $15-an-hour minimum wage over a period of three to seven years, depending on how big the business is. City council members considered a number of amendments, including one to push the initial start date to April 1st next year instead of January 1st. That measure passed.

Courtesy of Seth Holmes

Seth Holmes is a doctor and anthropologist at the University of California, Berkeley who did something that wouldn’t occur to most white, middle-class, highly-educated Americans.

About a decade ago, he spent a year and a half traveling, living with and working alongside migrant indigenous Mexican farmworkers from the state of Oaxaca. His stint included two seasons picking strawberries and blueberries on a large farm in Skagit County.

Getting your startup company funded can be tough no matter what, but women entrepreneurs may face the additional challenge of overcoming gender bias.

A Seattle-based angel investing group called ZINO Society is holding its first-ever investment forum dedicated solely to women business owners. 

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

Editor's note: The story has been updated to clarify that the berry pickers formed a workers' association. They did not form a union by holding an election under the National Labor Relations Act.

Berry pickers who went on strike at Sakuma Brothers Farms in Skagit County several times last year have filed a suit against the company, alleging retaliation. The workers say Sakuma has blacklisted many of them from working this summer as payback for their walkouts.

Labor activists plan to rally today at the University of Washington Tacoma campus on behalf of the school’s janitorial workers. They’re drawing attention to the cleaning staff’s lack of benefits and low pay.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

More than 90,000 people have signed a petition asking Amazon to drop its charitable support of Boy Scouts of America. The move comes after the national organization of the Boy Scouts last month fired Geoffrey McGrath, a gay Seattle Scoutmaster. 

Amazon has a program called AmazonSmile that will donate 0.5 percent of your purchase price to a charitable group of your choice. Boy Scouts of America is among the almost one million groups you can choose.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

After a rare contested election, the incumbents have retained their posts at the top of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

International President Tom Buffenbarger kept the position he’s held since 1997 by a margin of two-to-one, according to preliminary results. About 23,500 members voted for Buffenbarger, and about 11,200 voted for IAM Reform candidate, Jay Cronk.

Courtesy Dave Marcy

Bruce Stobie may be blind, but he’s getting ready to do something that most of us with perfect eyesight would never attempt. On June 10, he’s setting out on a three-week round-trip expedition to climb North America’s tallest peak, Denali.

Stobie grew up in Des Moines, Washington, loving to climb. But everything changed on Nov. 5, 1983. He was one of nine college kids packed into a truck driving through the Cascades when the driver lost control. The last thing Stobie ever saw was the truck flying into the air. He smashed, face-first, into the roll bar of the vehicle before being tossed out.

Andy Ciordia

Seattle City Council members are digging into the details of Mayor Ed Murray’s plan to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. That’s an eye-catching number that’s garnered national attention, but it's easy to forget the impact of that pesky thing known as inflation.

Elaine Thompson/AP Photo

Against the backdrop of a minimum wage debate occurring both locally and nationally, Alaska Air says it’s boosting the starting pay for workers who handle baggage, clean cabins and refuel airplanes to $12 an hour.

AP Photo

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray's incremental approach to raising the city's minimum wage to $15 an hour has revealed an interesting divide among left-wing groups and worker interests.

In one corner is David Rolf, a national leader in the Service Employees International Union and president of SEIU Healthcare 775NW. He's come out strongly in favor of Murray's plan, under which workers at businesses with more than 500 employees would first start earning $15 an hour in 2017 at the earliest. 

AP Photo

King County Council members are proceeding with the unwelcome task of eliminating bus service. Metro already has a plan, but council members have the final say on how to parcel out the cuts in the most logical and equitable way. 

Ashley Gross

Marcos Camilo of Brazil had never been on a plane before he flew to Seattle this past weekend. In fact, he’d never even seen the ocean. Now he’s seen the Pacific — something he never imagined.

Camilo was one of thousands of people from the coffee industry who convened at a conference to discuss a variety of topics, from roasting techniques to latte art. He was one of four farm workers from Central and South America joined them to pitch the benefits of buying beans that are Fair Trade-certified.

AP Photo

The committee exploring the proposal to raise Seattle’s minimum wage to $15 has not reached a consensus, Mayor Ed Murray said Thursday.

Murray, who had called a news conference to unveil a plan for raising the minimum wage, said the Income Inequality Advisory Committee had not yet reached a firm agreement. He added the negotiations are ongoing.

“I’d rather get it late and get it right than rush it and get it wrong,” he said.

Shikha Jain

In 1996, playwright Eve Ensler reclaimed a word that had mostly been relegated to medical textbooks and grade-school jokes. In her piece, “The Vagina Monologues,” she adapted interviews with women about their sexuality and turned them into performance art. The play has inspired women around the world to talk more openly about their bodies.

Here in Seattle, it inspired some South Asian women to reclaim the word “yoni.” That’s the Hindi word for vagina.

Instead of performing Ensler’s piece, these women write and perform their own stories. And there’s much to explore. They come from a society that’s grabbed unwelcome headlines in recent years for brutal violence against women. Even here in Seattle, South Asian women say they battle repressive attitudes within the expatriate community. 

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Boeing Chief Executive Jim McNerney says he understands that shifting engineering work away from Washington state may be controversial, but he says these moves “strengthen our company, strengthen our engineering capability.”

Over the past year, the Chicago-based aerospace giant has announced several transfers of engineering jobs that affect thousands of Puget Sound-area employees. Most recently, the company said earlier this month that it will move 1,000 engineering positions to southern California as it makes that region the center of customer support for airplanes currently in service.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Business owners in Seattle and around the state are lining up to tap the expertise of an unusual group of consultants: undergraduates at the University of Washington.

That may sound surprising, since the students mostly just have a few internships on their resumes. But their consulting class pushes them to dive deep into their clients’ business problems and deliver tangible, practical advice.

For one local chef, it’s a partnership that has yielded results.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

This may be the year that Seattle adopts one of the highest minimum wages in the country. But labor advocates and Seattle City Council member Nick Licata say without tough enforcement, a new wage law will be toothless. 

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