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Business news and features from the Puget Sound region. Stay up-to-date with the latest business news and more.

Seven national fast-food chains have agreed, under pressure, to eliminate a practice that limits their workers' ability to take jobs at other restaurants in the same chain, the Washington state attorney general announced Thursday.

Starbucks announced on Monday it plans to eliminate plastic straws from its 28,000 stores worldwide by 2020.

The company will broaden the manufacture and use of what some in social media have dubbed the "adult sippy cup." It's a plastic strawless lid that will come to replace single-use plastic straws that now inundate its coffee shops.

In the shadow of remote Dry Mountain in central Oregon, branding is the only way to guarantee a fair sorting of cattle among ranchers in the fall. Ear tags can rub off in the rough, sage-studded country.

So each year, before cattle are let out to graze on the summer range, the young are branded, castrated and vaccinated. Neighbors gather in the early morning to do the work.

Trade was at the forefront of the conversation with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue Monday in Spokane.

U.S. beef ranchers who voted heartily for President Donald Trump are getting a bit skittish about his trade wars. International tariffs are set to hit U.S. beef the first week of July.

Ely Dar was going about her nightly turn-down service rounds at a Westin hotel in downtown Seattle when she knocked on a hotel room door.

A male guest invited her in, and as she was preparing the ice bucket on the table, she suddenly felt something on her back.

"I feel the guest on my back, and then the guest [hugged] me. I'm so scared," she tells Here & Now's Robin Young. "And then I turn around and then I push him, and then I ran away."

In a large, brightly lit grocery store in Canada's capital Ottawa, Scott Chamberlain smoothly navigates his shopping cart through the produce section, looking for ingredients to make chili. He snaps up a bag of red peppers, clearly stamped "Product of Canada." But the only onions available are from the U.S. He reaches for Canadian-grown leeks instead.

Ed Ronco / KNKX

There’s a photo in the hallway of the Port of Port Angeles offices, just down the hall from the office of executive director Karen Goschen. It was taken in the 1980s, from a high angle, looking down at four ships moored at the dock. They’re surrounded by big collections of floating logs.

“It is dramatically different than the number of vessels we have today,” Goschen said.

On a cold December night last year, a meeting was called in the lobby of my apartment building. Concerned residents gathered to discuss a matter of great import: what to do about the swarms of packages jamming the lobby closet and overflowing into the entryway.

Unclaimed boxes were an eyesore and a nuisance. Finding the right package was starting to require gymnastic ability. And the boxes kept coming, by the dozens, maybe hundreds. Most of them were from Amazon: brown, with a smile on the side.

Updated at 9:14 a.m. ET

Mexico is putting tariffs on imports of U.S. steel and farm products — including pork, cheese, apples and potatoes — as it hits back at the U.S. for the Trump administration's tariffs on steel and aluminum products from Mexico, Canada and the European Union.

Signed by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, the decree also suspends the country's preferential tariff treatment of the U.S. It was published in Mexico's official gazette on Tuesday.

After U.S. tariffs on imports of European steel and aluminum took effect Friday morning, the EU's top trade commissioner called them "illegal" and a classic case of protectionism.

The EU plans to make its case to the World Trade Organization.

It only covers about 178 workers, but it's still a union foothold: Flight-readiness technicians and inspectors at Boeing's factory in North Charleston, S.C., voted to unionize on Thursday, more than a year after a broader union vote failed at the plant that makes Boeing 787 airliners.

The workers will be represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union, despite intense resistance from Boeing.

Gene J. Puskar / AP Photo

The Washington State Supreme Court has ruled that information submitted by Uber and Lyft to the city of Seattle falls under the category of trade secrets, but the court said that information may still be subject to public disclosure under state law.

A simultaneous training session for 175,000 employees, across more than 8,000 stores — that's what Starbucks is doing Tuesday, urging its workers and managers to discuss racial bias and respect following the arrest of two black men at a Philadelphia store last month.

For the sessions, many Starbucks stores will shut down in the afternoon and stay closed for several hours. A sign at one location in Chicago, for instance, says the store will be locking its doors at 2:30 p.m. and reopening on Wednesday. Other stores have posted similar notices.

The U.S. House of Representatives recently failed to pass a farm bill and Northwest farmers are worried that the process is not plowing ahead.

Will James / KNKX

Leaders of Pierce County and nine of its cities lined up inside a cavernous data center Tuesday and came just short of making a direct appeal for companies to flee Seattle's taxes for the South Sound. 

In farm fields from the Willamette Valley to the Kittitas Valley and east to Idaho, energy developers want to plant a new crop: commercial solar arrays. But a surge in utility-scale solar farm applications is generating pushback.

Washington drivers who are thinking about buying an electric car would be wise to get down to a dealership in the next two weeks. That's because a valuable tax break disappears at month's end.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

The debate over the proposed "head tax" on large Seattle businesses is heating up.

Elaine Thompson / AP

Amazon is pausing development on two buildings in downtown Seattle as the City Council considers a "head tax" on large businesses.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee was on the shore of Lake Union in Seattle Wednesday to launch a cross-border flight service between the Emerald City and Vancouver, British Columbia.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Taxi drivers at Sea-Tac Airport are upset over what they're calling a "pay-to-play scam." The company they contract with, Eastside For Hire, has asked drivers to subsidize voluntary buyouts to try and reduce the airport fleet.

One of the diciest points in an airline merger is consolidating computer systems. That moment arrives Tuesday night for Alaska Airlines and its former West Coast rival Virgin America.

Ron Todt / AP Photo

Starbucks is planning to close 8,000 of its U.S. stores for an afternoon next month to conduct racial-bias training.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

So how exactly can your neighborhood coffee store shut down for a few hours and then reopen with a little less bias? That's what Starbucks proposes to do after a much publicized arrest of two black men at a Starbucks in Philadelphia. Here's Simone Alicea of KNKX in Seattle.

East of the Cascades, wheat farmers say there has been plenty of moisture over the winter and all things point to a good harvest. But the price and demand for that crop is very much in question.

Updated at 4:50 p.m. ET

Starbucks is closing thousands of stores across the U.S. on the afternoon of May 29 to conduct "racial-bias education geared toward preventing discrimination in our stores," the company said in a statement.

The EU's highest court ruled on Tuesday that France can bring criminal charges against Uber managers for running an illegal taxi service. France can do that without first notifying the European Commission, said the judges.

University of Washington

Post-doctoral researchers occupy sort of a gray area on many university campuses. They're no longer students, but they aren't ready to be professors either. You see postdocs a lot in the sciences, where that extra lab time is virtually required before having a university lab of one's own.

When the price of one bitcoin soared to almost $20,000 late last year, an influx of entrepreneurs and developers came to the Pacific Northwest in search of cheap hydropower to do bitcoin "mining."

But now cities, counties and utilities at the epicenter in central Washington are hitting the pause button. The cryptocurrency businesses bring tech jobs—but they are also electricity hogs.

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