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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.

Group Health, the Seattle-based cooperative founded nearly 70 years ago, has announced it is being acquired by the much larger California-based Kaiser Permanente.

Group Health says nothing is likely to change right away for its employees or its 590,000 policyholders, as the transition is expected to take about a year. After that, Group Health would be operated as a new, eighth region of Kaiser Permanente.  

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.

The U.S. drug giant Pfizer and its smaller rival Allergan have agreed to merge, creating the world's biggest pharmaceutical company by sales.

The $160 billion deal is the largest example so far of a corporate inversion, in which a U.S. company merges with a foreign company and shifts its domicile overseas in order to lower its corporate taxes.

Two tech startups you know have now gone public: Square (which makes the little white square to swipe credit cards) and Match, the online dating giant. Both companies got nice, first-day pops to their share prices as they started selling for well above the initial price. But interestingly, those initial prices were set low.

Really low.

Square was planning to price somewhere between $11 and $13 a share, which, analysts say, is already pretty cheap. But then, the company went even lower, settling for just $9. That's really, really cheap.

Bellingham, Washington-based Haggen mushroomed in size at the beginning of 2015 by acquiring 146 grocery stores across the West from Boise-based Albertsons and Safeway. Those two chains had to unload stores to gain federal approval to merge.

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.

Northwest farmers are watching several bills closely in Congress that would try to keep trade moving through ports in the event of a labor dispute.

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. 

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.

Aaron Hushagen / KPLU

Reporters from the Pacific Northwest weigh in on stories they think didn't get enough coverage this week.

KPLU's Sound Effect hears from Ashley Stewart who covers technology and finance for the Puget Sound Business Journal; Rachel Lerman, technology reporter for The Seattle Times; and Peter Robison who heads up the Seattle bureau for Bloomberg News.

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?

Richard Drew / AP Photo

Microsoft quietly cut jobs this week but released few details. That news comes in what’s otherwise been a good week for the company as the stock reached a 15-year high.  

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Boeing reported third-quarter earnings and revenue that topped analyst estimates, but the company hinted at a possible lower production rate for its wide-body 777 jet. 

Revenue climbed 9 percent to $25.8 billion, topping analysts' consensus estimate of $24.7 billion, according to the financial research company, Factset. Boeing's net earnings jumped 25 percent. The company delivered a record 199 airplanes in the quarter.

Oregon Department of Forestry / Flickr

The aviation industry faces increased pressure to lower its carbon footprint. There has long been a hope that alternative jet fuels could be the answer, and this week in Seattle, experts on such fuels will gather to present their research. 

In June, the Obama administration took the first step toward regulating greenhouse gas emissions from airplanes. So that is an additional incentive to airplane makers and airlines to reduce pollution.

Amazon is firing yet another shot at a competitor. This time it's a mega-artisanal shot, at Etsy — the popular craft site. The e-commerce giant on Thursday launched Handmade, a new marketplace for, well, handmade goods. This could be wonderful news for the artisan movement, or terrible news for Etsy, its staunchest supporter to date.

Valerie Nethery got a message out of the blue, from Amazon. "They emailed me directly. I'm not sure how they found me."

Patrick Rodriguez via Wikimedia Commons

Tacoma voters have less than a month to decide whether to raise the city’s minimum wage, and if so, how much. Thursday evening, debaters at Pacific Lutheran University will give their best arguments in favor and against a $15 minimum wage.

Jacquelyn Martin / AP

Washington aerospace businesses are meeting this week in Spokane for an annual statewide summit, where they are planning to talk about some of the industry’s most pressing issues, including reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank. 

Mark Lennihan / AP Photo

The recent New York Times feature about Amazon’s internal culture is still generating lots of discussion about work-life balance. At a recent tech summit sponsored by the technology publication Geekwire, two former Amazon executives told the crowded ballroom that they thought the article was too negative. 

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Amazon has been growing so fast in Seattle that the company has lately been blamed for everything from too few women in the dating pool to traffic gridlock and rising rents. Now, the company is trying to show how having its campus in Seattle is a benefit to the city. 

Library of Congress

The International Franchise Association has lost another round in its legal fight over Seattle’s $15 minimum wage ordinance. The association sued Seattle arguing that the law is unfair to businesses that are part of a national franchise network. Seattle requires that franchisees be counted in the large employer category and pay the higher wage more quickly than small businesses. 

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. 

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. 

In a new expansion of commercial efforts to launch earthlings into space, Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos plans to build rockets on Florida's Space Coast — in an area he calls "a gateway to humankind's greatest adventures."

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