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."

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Business
1:39 pm
Thu January 23, 2014

Microsoft Earnings And Revenue Climb, Still No CEO Announcement

Wally Santana AP Photo

In the face of a steadily declining market for personal computers, Microsoft succeeded in boosting both revenue and profit in the most recent quarter, coming in ahead of analyst estimates. 

Sales climbed 14 percent to $24.5 billion in the quarter ended Dec. 31, and net income rose 2.8 percent to $6.6 billion, or 78 cents a share. The consensus estimate of analysts was 69 cents a share, according to Bloomberg. 

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Machinists Union
5:00 am
Thu January 23, 2014

Reform Candidates Try To Dislodge Top Leaders Of The Machinists Union

Machinists are seen rallying against Boeing's contract extension offer.
Ashley Gross KPLU

The contentious Boeing contract extension offer that machinists narrowly passed earlier this month left many workers unhappy with their union leaders. This Saturday, they’ll have a chance to nominate new candidates for top positions in the union’s national headquarters. 

But the reform candidates face an uphill battle in their effort to dislodge the top leaders. The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers hasn’t had a contested election for its highest jobs in more than half a century.

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Business
5:01 am
Tue January 21, 2014

NLRB Once Again Caught In The Middle Of A Thorny Boeing-Machinists Dispute

Boeing machinist Eddie Bjorgo greets fellow workers heading to a union hall to cast ballots with signs urging a "no" vote Friday, Jan. 3, 2014, in Everett, Wash.
Elaine Thompson AP Photo

The National Labor Relations Board once again is being called into the middle of a thorny dispute between machinists and the Boeing Company. Could the agency find itself in as much political hot water this time as three years ago?

2011 is the year the NLRB exploded onto the national consciousness, all because the agency’s general counsel filed a complaint against Boeing over its decision to build a Dreamliner plant in South Carolina. That drew heated responses from many political conservatives.

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A Labor Movement In Songs
5:00 am
Mon January 20, 2014

Tacoma Professor Tells The Story Of The 'Sharecropper's Troubadour'

Plowboy in Alabama earns 75 cents daily.
Dorothea Lange, photographer, Farm Security Administration (1936)

    

The movie "12 Years A Slave" has made clear the extent of the brutality slaves had to endure before emancipation. But life in the segregationist south up until the civil rights movement was, in many ways, not much better than during slavery.

That’s clear in "Sharecropper's Troubadour," the latest book from Michael Honey, the Fred T. and Dorothy G. Haley Endowed Professor of the Humanities at the University of Washington Tacoma. It’s an oral history of an African-American man named John Handcox, who braved the wrath of plantation owners by using his gift for song to organize sharecroppers into a union. 

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Business
4:31 pm
Thu January 16, 2014

Economist: 'We Owe 51 Percent Of The Boeing Machinists A Big Thank You'

A worker wiring a plane in Boeing's Everett facility
Ashley Gross KPLU

Regional economist Dick Conway says even though we have lots of big, vibrant companies in the Puget Sound area these days, our economy still rises and falls with the fortunes of one, a certain aerospace giant.

And that's why he says it's so critical that Boeing's 777x jet will be built in Washington state after members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers voted narrowly to accept a contract extension. They agreed to cuts in hard-fought retirement and health benefits to preserve those jobs. 

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Business
2:54 pm
Wed January 15, 2014

Boeing Machinists' Plight Marks Changing Times For Labor

Boeing machinists and other supporters held a rally against the company's offer the day before the critical vote, which took place in early January.
Ashley Gross KPLU

Originally published on Wed January 15, 2014 5:36 pm

The mood at the Seattle union hall was quiet, almost funereal on the night Boeing workers narrowly approved an offer to build the company's new airliner, the 777X.

Members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers who had gathered had wanted to reject the offer. But they were in a tight spot. They risked losing the bid to one of the 21 states hoping to step in.

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Business
8:47 pm
Tue January 14, 2014

Embattled Local Leader Of The Machinists Union Announces Resignation

Machinists union president Tom Wroblewski speak at a signing event for legislation to help keep production of Boeing's new 777X in Washington, Monday, Nov. 11, 2013, at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.
Elaine Thompson AP Photo

Citing health concerns and two hospital stays brought on by stress connected to the Boeing 777x contract extension proposal, the embattled local leader of the machinists' union says he'll resign at the end of the month. 

Tom Wroblewski, 59, has been president of District Lodge 751 of the machinists' union since 2007. Prior to the post, he served as a grievance coordinator as well as a business representative for the union, with assignments throughout the Puget Sound region. 

The experience of the 777X contract proposal "changed my perspective on work-life balance," Wroblewski said in a statement. "Your job should not destroy your health."

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Business
11:02 pm
Thu January 9, 2014

Forecast for Pierce County's Economy in 2014: Partly Sunny

It’s taking longer for Pierce County to bounce back from the recession than counties to the north, such as King and Snohomish. But economists at Pacific Lutheran University expect the economy in Tacoma and the region to show some improvement this year. 

PLU economists Martin Wurm and Neal Johnson have been crunching the numbers on everything from Pierce County’s housing market to retail sales to come up with an economic forecast. 

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Minimum Wage
3:26 pm
Tue January 7, 2014

Airport Workers Urge Port Commission To Adopt $15 Min. Wage Passed By Voters

In this Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013 photo, wheelchair attendants Erick Conley, left, and Sesilia Vaitele assist a pair of passengers heading to an overseas flight at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, in SeaTac, Wash.
Elaine Thompson AP Photo

Airport workers are urging Port of Seattle commissioners to adopt the $15 per hour minimum wage that voters in the city of SeaTac passed last November. 

The Port of Seattle, which oversees the seaport as well as Sea-Tac International Airport, argued in court late last year that it doesn’t fall under the jurisdiction of the SeaTac minimum wage initiative. King County Judge Andrea Darvas agreed, and as a result, baggage handlers, cabin cleaners and other airport workers who had been hoping for a jump in pay at the beginning of this year haven’t gotten one.

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Machinists Vote
10:04 pm
Fri January 3, 2014

Local Machinists Narrowly Approve Boeing's Best And Final Offer For 777X Work

A volunteer vote counter tallies ballots Friday, Jan. 3, 2014, at the Boeing machinists union hall in Seattle.
Ted S. Warren AP Photo

Local machinists narrowly approved Boeing’s “best and final” offer that guarantees assembly of the next 777 wide-body jet and the fabrication of the plane's carbon-fiber wing for the Puget Sound region.

Some 30,000 local machinists accepted the deal with a 51-percent vote, said International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers spokesman Jim Bearden late Friday.

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Boeing Decision
6:46 pm
Thu January 2, 2014

On Eve Of Union Vote, Machinists Protest Boeing's Latest Offer

Ashley Gross

Several hundred Boeing machinists and supporters gathered in a Seattle union hall Thursday to urge members to reject Boeing’s contract offer.

The rally came on the eve of a crucial vote on what Boeing has called its best and final offer. Acceptance of the labor deal by some 30,000 local machinists would guarantee 777 assembly work for the Puget Sound area.

But local union leaders are urging members to reject the offer, saying the workers are asked to make concessions even though the company is having a profitable run.

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Life Reinvented
5:00 am
Fri December 27, 2013

Seattle Architect Giving Up Designing Million-Dollar Houses To Help The Homeless

Cindy Hohlbein

Rex Hohlbein had been designing luxurious homes for more than two decades when his life began to shift.

He began inviting homeless people into the office of his architecture firm to warm up, use the bathroom and get a cup of coffee. Pretty soon, he found it hard to spend his days designing million-dollar homes when he was meeting so many people he found sleeping in tents or under a doorway.

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Boeing Decision
12:05 pm
Sat December 21, 2013

Boeing Machinists Will Vote On Company's Contract Offer

Machinists rally to urge their union to bring the offer to a vote
Ashley Gross KPLU

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story stated voting will take place on Jan. 3. However, according to a spokesman for the union's international headquarters, the exact date is still being finalized.

Local Boeing machinists will have a chance to vote on the company's "best and final" offer, the acceptance of which would guarantee assembly of the next 777 wide-body jet and the fabrication of the plane's carbon-fiber wing for the Puget Sound region.  

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Boeing Decision
4:35 pm
Wed December 18, 2013

Shouting Machinists Disagree Over Whether To Vote on Boeing's Latest Offer

James White, a machinist of 17 years, says Boeing's latest offer is unacceptable.
Ashley Gross

Tempers are running high among Boeing machinists as the company evaluates potential sites to build the next 777 jet. That became evident at a small rally outside the machinists' union hall in Everett Wednesday. 

Machinists who want to push their union leaders to let them vote on the company's last contract offer organized the rally and said about 80 people would show up. But they only drew about 40. That group marched to the union hall from the company's Everett factory chanting "Give us a voice!" About  a dozen counter-protesters arrived, yelling, "We already voted!"

The rally turned into a shouting match, with the two sides arguing about things like whether a 401(k) is a good retirement plan. One shouted that he suspected voter fraud in the union's November vote over Boeing's labor proposal.

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Boeing Machinists
5:28 pm
Tue December 17, 2013

Local Boeing Worker Files Unfair Labor Practice Charge Against Union

FILE - This May 17, 2011 file photo, shows a Boeing 737 iat the Boeing Co. assembly facility in Renton, Wash.
Ted S. Warren AP Photo

A Boeing worker in Renton has filed an unfair labor practice charge against the machinists union.

Timothy Limestall says local leaders of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers failed to provide enough information about Boeing’s contract extension offer that members voted on last month.

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