Business

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

Seattle University law student Connor Smith researches employmetnt law at the Fair Work Center in Seattle, which runs the county's only legal clinic specializing in workplace issues.
Simone Alicea / knkx

Employees who think they're being treated unfairly at work can now find free legal advice in King County.

The Fair Work Center in Seattle's Columbia City neighborhood has opened the county's first legal clinic specializing in workplace issues like pay, safety or discrimination. 

"People are having problems; and they know it's a problem. They're just not apparently sure it has a legal solution," Fair Work Center legal director Liz Ford said.

Daniel X. O'Neil via Creative Commons

Seattle may be days away from passing what some activists consider the nation's strongest worker scheduling regulations. 

The City Council's Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts Committee voted 5-0 Tuesday in favor of the secure scheduling proposal

The committee vote was the last step before the full nine-member City Council takes up the law, expected as soon as Monday. 

In this March 14, 2014, file photo, Jerad Bernard hands out cards to passers-by offering one free ride through the Lyft ridesharing service in Seattle.
Elaine Thompson / AP

The Seattle City Council has extended the deadline for the city to figure out out how to implement a law allowing drivers for companies like Uber and Lyft to unionize.

The City Council approved the ordinance last year and tasked the city Department of Finance and Administrative Services with determining the rules for how drivers and unions could work together.

Sure, he can chop open a coconut with a bare hand, carry a piglet through a cramped alleyway, dive into a well to retrieve a lost soccer ball — but has he won the lifetime achievement award, twice?

Does his blood smell like cologne? Is there a sandwich named after him on every continent

Does he bowl overhand?

Dos Equis has revealed the new face of its wildly popular "Most Interesting Man in the World" ad campaign.

Liberty Media says it has reached an agreement to buy the Formula One auto-racing franchise for $4.4 billion.

As NPR's Yuki Noguchi tells our Newscast unit, the U.S. cable giant "has been on a buying spree, and this acquisition bolsters its sports offerings." Here's more from Yuki:

"Liberty Media is part of the growing media empire controlled by cable-TV pioneer and billionaire John Malone. Malone's properties expanded in the last year to include Time Warner Cable.

Thirteen year-old Natalie Giorgi probably didn't know the name of the company that makes EpiPen. But the Sacramento, Calif., girl's death from a peanut-induced allergy attack in 2013 inspired passage of the California law that made the Mylan product a staple at every school in the state.

If you're like me, somewhere in your house you imagine there must be a pile of lost white iPhone earbuds. The pile is probably right next to the stack of single socks. It's one of several reasons I never liked wireless Bluetooth headphones. They're smaller and even easier to lose.

Amazon's new part-time teams are generating buzz about work-life balance in the tech industry.
Mark Lennihan / AP Photo

Amazon is experimenting  a few teams of part-time employees, consisting of both workers and managers with a 30-hour week. The move has renewed conversations about work-life balance in the tech industry. 

Laura Troyani  used to work for TINYpulse, a local startup that helps employers – mainly other tech companies – measure their employees' happiness. She has since started PlanBeyond, a marketing consulting firm.

Troyani sat down with KNKX to talk about how tech employers are starting to help their employees strike that balance.

A new survey from the Associated General Contractors of America shows that Washington and other states are facing a shortage of craft workers like carpenters and painters.
"setting out braces" by Matt Thompson is licensed by CC by 2.0

As the nation recovers from the recession and more construction projects pop up, contractors across the country are having trouble finding enough people to build those projects.

A new survey from the Associated General Contractors of America shows that employers, including 75 percent of those surveyed in Washington state, are struggling to find skilled crafts workers. These are people like carpenters and painters who make up the bulk of the labor force on a given project. 

The European Union's executive branch has found that Ireland granted unfair and illegal tax breaks to the tech giant Apple, and ruled that Apple now owes more than $14.5 billion in back taxes.

The commissioner in charge of competition policy, Margrethe Vestager, says that under EU rules, "Member states cannot give tax benefits to selected companies."

The battle of the Joes isn't over yet.

On one hand, you have Trader Joe's — the U.S. grocery chain with a bit of a cult following for its quirky, exclusive products.

On the other hand, you have Pirate Joe's — the Canadian "gray market" grocery shop that sells Trader Joe's goods picked up in America and trucked across the border to Vancouver. There, at a significant markup, they're sold to Trader Joe's enthusiasts who don't fancy the thought of a border-crossing grocery run.

Treatment for life-threatening allergic reactions is about to get a little cheaper.

Mylan, the maker of the EpiPen, said Monday that it will launch a generic version of the device for half the price of the brand-name product.

ELAINE THOMPSON / AP PHOTO

The median price for a single-family house in Washington state hit an all-time record of $317,500 in the second quarter of 2016.

That beats the prior record of $316,700 set in 2007, just before the housing market crashed, according to an analysis by the University of Washington's Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies.

Tesla Motors moved a step closer in its bid to buy SolarCity after federal regulators said the $2.6 billion deal doesn't present antitrust concerns.

Tesla announced plans to purchase the solar panel installer earlier this month, and Reuters says the Federal Trade Commission quickly signed off "because the merging companies have few or no overlaps."

NPR's Jeff Brady has more on the deal:

"Tesla is pursing the acquisition because on top of building cars, the company says it wants to produce the renewable energy that could power them.

Amazon opened its first brick-and-mortar bookstore in Seattle's University Village last year.
Elaine Johnson / AP Photo

Part of the convenience of shopping online is having your spoils delivered to your door, but online retailers are opening more and more physical stores.

Consider the bookstore Amazon opened in Seattle's University Village last year. Now the retail giant is beginning to build drive-up grocery stores where customers can pick up online orders.

"hallway in the cherry tree inn in billings" by Bradley Gordon is licensed under CC by 2.0

On Monday,  the Seattle City Council endorsed an initiative slated for the November ballot that was designed to protect hotel workers in the city.  That initiative is opposed by hotel owners who worry the measure goes too far.

Initiative 124 is broad, covering employee health care, workplace safety, and how hotels should protect workers from sexual harassment.

Henry Ford would be proud of T-Mobile, says telecom analyst Roger Entner.

One of the most famous quotes by the legendary Ford Motor founder was on the availability of the Model T in only one color: "Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black."

Union labels on Perma products
Perma

Recreational marijuana buyers in the south Puget Sound can now find products with a union label.

Perma, a Tacoma-based cannabis grower and processor, is the first recreational pot processor in the county to unionize. The workers have joined the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 367. 

The process began in May when Perma founder Webb Bowie saw the union speak at a business event.

"I went to them and challenged them," Bowie said. "They didn't come knocking at my door."

Supporters of secure scheduling  march in downtown Seattle in April.
Working Washington

Businesses made their stand against Seattle's proposed "secure scheduling" law Tuesday evening.

Representatives from Home Depot, AutoZone, Target, Petco, Subway franchises, and other chains packed half the city council chamber at a public hearing to criticize proposed rules on how their companies schedule workers in the city.

Retail giant Wal-Mart uses its market dominance to inflict "ruthless," "brutal" and "relentless" pressure on prices charged by suppliers, business writers frequently report.

What if huge health insurance companies could push down prices charged by hospitals and doctors in the same way?

The idea is getting new attention as already painful health costs accelerate and major medical insurers seek to merge into three enormous firms.

Delta canceled about 530 flights on Tuesday in addition to about 1,000 canceled a day earlier after a power outage in Atlanta brought down the company's computers, grinding the airline's operation virtually to a halt.

Seth Kaplan, who follows the airline industry, asks the question on everyone's mind: "If every small business on the corner can manage to keep its website running through a cloud-based server and all those sorts of things, why can't Delta Air Lines with all its resources manage to do that?"

Puget Sound Energy

Plans for a terminal that would make and store liquefied natural gas at the Port of Tacoma are moving closer to reality.  But there’s still a question of how the costs should be divvied up. 

Puget Sound Energy, the private utility hoping to build the plant, is in talks with state regulators over how to structure the corporate entity that would run the facility — essentially a chilled steel tank wrapped in three feet of concrete. 

Milk prices are in the tank. You may not have noticed this, since prices in the supermarket have fallen only slightly. But on the farm, it's dramatic. Dairy farmers are getting about 20 percent less for their milk than they did last year; 40 percent less than when milk prices hit an all-time peak two years ago.

"We're losing money," says Dave Drennan, executive director of the Missouri Dairyman's Association. In Europe and Australia, dairy farmers have taken to the streets to protest their plight.

"Welcome at SEA" by bfishadow is licensed by CC BY 2.0

Immigrants in Washington make outsized contributions to the state’s economy, according to a new report from a national coalition that promotes immigration reform.

On Wednesday morning, local business leaders and immigrant advocates presented "The Contributions of New Americans in Washington," which detailed the economic impact of the state's immigrants. 

Hop growers are raising a glass to craft brewers. The demand for small-batch brews has helped growers boost their revenues, expand their operations, and, in some cases, save their farms.

"Without the advent of craft brewing, a few large, corporate growers would be supplying all of the hops and local, family-owned farms like ours would have gone bankrupt," says Diane Gooding, vice president of operations at Gooding Farms, a hop grower in Wilder, Idaho. "It's saved the industry."

Marissa Mayer will go down in history as the last CEO of Yahoo. The great Internet pioneer is having its core business auctioned off to Verizon. When Mayer came on board four years ago, Yahoo was in a critical, make-or-break moment. It needed a decisive leader.

But in interviews with Mayer and people who worked with her, a different truth emerges: The CEO treated Yahoo more like a think tank than a sinking ship.

Stockholders in Virgin America have approved the acquisition of their airline by Alaska Airlines. The chairman of Virgin America announced the voting results at a brief shareholders meeting Tuesday.

With recent reports that drugmakers have sharply raised the prices of some prescription drugs, a reader has written in to ask why a common generic drug is also suddenly costing him more. Another reader has questions about health plans with high deductibles. Here are those readers' questions, and what I've learned about the answers.

Yahoo has found a buyer for its core Internet business: the nation's largest telecom provider, Verizon Communications. The two companies are set to announce a $4.8-billion deal on Monday, according to Bloomberg.

Alaska Airlines' proposed takeover of rival Virgin America remains on course pending federal approval expected late this year. That's according to Alaska Air Group CEO Brad Tilden. Tilden told Wall Street analysts Thursday that he's still undecided about whether to keep the Virgin America brand alive after the acquisition goes through.

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