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


For years, the National Federation of the Blind has been pressuring Amazon to make its devices and apps fully accessible to the blind. They even staged a protest outside Amazon headquarters three years ago.

Now, the organization says it’s reached an agreement to work together with Amazon to make sure blind students are able to fully use Kindle content.

Troy Bonnes / University of Washington

Race has been front and center in this year’s presidential election. This week, University of Washington and Bellevue College students are gaining a deeper understanding of the history of the struggle for civil rights in the U.S. by visiting landmarks in the South such as Montgomery, Alabama; site of the 1955-56 bus boycott that began after Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

In Tacoma, a Chinese-backed company has been seeking to build one of the world’s largest plants to convert natural gas to methanol, which would then be shipped to China to be used in making plastics.

After an intense public outcry, the company recently said it will pause the environmental review process, saying it has been “surprised by the tone and substance of the vocal opposition that has emerged in Tacoma.”

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Home prices in the Seattle metro area jumped almost 10 percent in December compared with a year earlier. A forum hosted by the real estate brokerage and tech company Redfin Wednesday evening will examine how the city can remain livable for people of all incomes in coming years. 

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Northwest Innovation Works, the Chinese-backed company that has been seeking to build one of the world's biggest natural gas-to-methanol plants at the Port of Tacoma, said in a statement that it's decided to "pause the environmental review."

"We have been surprised by the tone and substance of the vocal opposition that has emerged in Tacoma," the company said. "To force a facility on a community that does not welcome it would not be consistent with our goals."

Port of Tacoma

Projects in the works for the Pacific Northwest could turn the region into a major hub for exporting petrochemicals and products derived from fossil fuels, according to a new study from the environmental think tank Sightline Institute. 


Boeing engineers and technical workers have voted to accept a new six-year contract, one that the company said "helps position us for continued success in a highly competitive landscape."

The contract covers about 20,000 Boeing engineers and technical workers, mostly in the Puget Sound region. The negotiations and vote were much more peaceful this time than they were three years ago. At that time, members of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, or SPEEA, were so unhappy with the company’s proposals, they almost went on strike. 

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

About 20,000 Boeing engineers and technical workers, most of them in Washington state, have just a couple more days left to vote on a new six-year contract. The head of their union, the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), says the negotiations that led to the tentative contract agreement mark a shift in Boeing’s approach to labor issues. 

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Boeing shares dropped almost 7 percent after Bloomberg reported the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the company’s accounting. 

According to the story, which cites unidentified people "with knowledge of the matter," securities regulators are looking into how Boeing has accounted for costs and expected sales of its 787 Dreamliner and the 747-8 jumbo jet. Spokesmen for Boeing and the SEC declined to comment. 

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Boeing Commercial Airplanes Chief Executive Ray Conner told employees during a webcast that the company will cut an undisclosed number of jobs as a way to reduce costs. 

"We will start reducing employment levels with executives and managers first," the company said in a statement. "We will also use attrition and voluntary layoffs. As a last resort, involuntary layoffs may be necessary."

Elaine Thompson / AP

Seattle was the first big city to adopt a $15 minimum wage law, and now there’s new research on how that’s affected the prices we pay at stores and restaurants.

University of Washington researchers are doing a multi-year study to analyze economic impacts of the wage hike. They started tracking consumer prices last March, right before the first wage hike to $11 an hour.

BASF / Flickr

On Wednesday, Tacoma residents will get another chance to weigh in on a plan for what could become the world’s biggest methanol plant. A lot of people have raised concerns about potential safety hazards posed by methanol itself and the process of refining it from natural gas.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Editor’s Note: This story works best as an audio experience, so we urge you to take a listen.

What if you poured your energy into becoming an opera singer, but then became famous for doing the voice of a computer in a blockbuster video game?

That’s the unexpected twist in Ellen McLain’s career. She’s performed countless roles in operas in Seattle and Tacoma and acted in many Seattle theaters.

But now the thing she’s most famous for is doing the voice of GLaDOS, the sweet-sounding but passive-aggressive computer in Valve’s hit video games Portal and Portal 2.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

There are now hard numbers to back up what Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said in a televised address earlier this week: Seattle and King County are struggling with a growing crisis of homelessness. 

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

There are legitimate questions about proposed multi-billion dollar methanol plants at the ports of Tacoma and Kalama, according to Gov. Jay Inslee. He said the plants offer benefits but their water usage and possible pollution need to be carefully considered. 

Dean Rutz / AP Photo

Seattle Police are searching for at least two people in connection with the shooting at a homeless camp south of downtown. Five people were shot Tuesday night in the unauthorized encampment known as “The Jungle.”

Seattle Police say they have leads and are interviewing witnesses in the shooting that left two people dead and three others wounded. But the perpetrators are still at large.

At a news conference, Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole said authorities believe the shooting was related to low-level drug dealing.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Boeing says it plans to reduce the production rate of its 777 wide-body jet, one of the company’s biggest sources of cash, to seven per month next year from the current rate of 8.3 per month.

“As a result of the rate change, we expect some impact on employment and will do our best to mitigate that by placing employees in other jobs across Boeing,” Boeing spokesman Doug Alder said in an emailed statement. “We are still studying how many roles may be impacted.”

Ashley Gross / KPLU

The city of Tacoma’s first public meeting about plans for the world’s largest methanol plant drew a much bigger crowd than expected. 

One fire marshal estimated that a thousand people showed up. Some couldn’t get into the main room or an overflow room because those were already full. 

Eugene Hoshiko / AP

Starbucks shares fell about 4 percent after the close of regular trading on Thursday after the company reported fiscal first-quarter results. 

In China, sales growth at the company's stores that have been open at least a year showed a slowdown, adding to recent concerns about the health of that country’s economy. 

SounderBruce / Flickr

Tacoma workers will be entitled to a minimum wage of $10.35 starting Feb. 1, up from the state’s current wage floor of $9.47. It’s the first of several hikes that will gradually phase in a $12 minimum wage approved by voters in November.  

IAM District 751

A group of Democratic lawmakers in the Washington House of Representatives is trying again to link Boeing’s tax break to the number of jobs the company keeps in the state. This time, they’ve won support from two Republicans: Rep. Cary Condotta, who represents the Wenatchee area, and Rep. Richard DeBolt from Chehalis.

Port of Tacoma

A Chinese-backed group wants to build what they say would be the world’s biggest methanol plant at the Port of Tacoma, raising lots of concerns among nearby residents, who will have a chance to weigh in on the project at a scoping meeting this Thursday. 


If you’re a homeowner in the Seattle area, you might be interested to hear that Zillow is forecasting another jump in property values this year, driven in part because many tech workers are opting to live in and around Seattle instead of the San Francisco Bay Area. 

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Property owners are cashing in right now as Seattle’s real estate market booms.

But that’s not the main goal of Jan Johnson, owner of Seattle’s historic Panama Hotel, as she searches for someone to buy the place. She wants to ensure the hotel is preserved as a reminder of the city’s once bustling Japantown, part of what's known as the Chinatown International District, and the sad history of Japanese-American families sent to camps during World War II.

SounderBruce / Flickr

Contract talks are getting back underway between the University of Washington and a new union representing doctors in residency programs at hospitals including Harborview Medical Center, UW Medical Center and Seattle Children's. The residents say it’s a struggle to get by on what they’re paid, given the cost of living in Seattle and their student loan debt.

Andrew T. Sawyer / AP Photo

Farmworker advocacy groups are urging the state to investigate questionable responses by farmers to a survey about how much they pay their workers. 

A.F. Litt / Flickr

Janitors who worked in Fred Meyer stores in Washington state are suing the company and its subcontractors in a class-action lawsuit alleging that they were forced to work off the clock. 

This is a case that involves layers of contractors and a big corporation at the top – Fred Meyer, which is owned by Kroger.

The janitors were employed by a subcontractor, MH Janitorial, which has since gone out of business. They say MH failed to pay them for work they did after their shift was supposed to end.

SnoShuu / Flickr

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in mid-January in a case that could have big ramifications for public-sector unions in Washington state. 

It's called Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, and the case concerns whether it’s okay that states such as California and Washington require public-sector employees to pay their union an “agency fee” for the cost of collective bargaining even if those workers opt out of paying the full amount of dues because they don’t want their money to go toward the union’s political activities. 

Greeley Tribune

Editor’s note: KPLU has hired an independent editor to oversee coverage of this story.

Last month, KPLU listeners were surprised to find out that Pacific Lutheran University, which owns KPLU's license, was planning to sell the station to the University of Washington. UW operates a rival public radio station, KUOW. 


Pacific Lutheran University and the University of Washington have extended their deadline for signing the asset purchase agreement of KPLU until Jan. 15. They originally set Dec. 18 as the deadline for signing and then submitting it to the Federal Communications Commission for approval.