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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State Licensure
4:03 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

African Hair Braider Sues Wash. Department Of Licensing, Seeks Clarity On Regulations

Salamata Sylla braids her daughter's hair at a press conference announcing her lawsuit.
Ashley Gross KPLU

The owner of an African hair-braiding salon has filed a suit against the state Department of Licensing in the latest move by a cottage industry that has fought to limit what they call unnecessary regulations.

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On Determination
2:49 pm
Thu June 12, 2014

Blind Mountain Climber From Seattle Area Sets Out To Summit Denali

Josh Gautreau, Bruce Stobie and Mike Haugen are ready to fly to the base camp of Denali.
RMI Expeditions

The big day has arrived for Bruce Stobie, the blind mountain climber featured in a KPLU story last month

Stobie flew to the base camp of Denali Thursday morning to begin his expedition. The Maple Valley man is aiming to become the fourth blind person to climb North America’s tallest mountain.

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Workers' Rights
4:50 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

Sakuma Brothers Farms To Pay $500,000 To Berry Pickers

File image of berry pickers at work at Sakuma Brothers Farms.
Bellamy Pailthorp

Sakuma Brothers Farms, one of Washington state’s largest berry farms, has agreed to pay $850,000 to settle a lawsuit filed its workers.

The berry pickers sued last year, alleging they were denied rest breaks and weren’t paid for all the hours they worked. The lawyers representing the pickers said this is the state's largest settlement involving farmworker wages and hours on record.

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Minimum Wage
12:42 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

Franchise Owners' Lawsuit Challenges Seattle's $15 Minimum Wage

File image
AP Photo

Franchise owners have followed through on their threat to sue the city of Seattle over the new $15 minimum wage ordinance. They say they’re small business owners who are being unfairly treated as large corporations under the new law.

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Business
3:47 pm
Tue June 10, 2014

Following Seattle's Minimum Wage Increase, Home Care Workers Push For $15 An Hour

Ubah Aden, a home care worker in Seattle, at a rally calling for a new state contract that phases in a $15/hour minimum wage for independent home care workers
Ashley Gross KPLU

The union that represents home care workers across Washington state is calling for a new contract that phases in a $15-an-hour minimum wage. They’re hoping Seattle’s recent vote to gradually hike the wage floor will help bolster their argument. 

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Housing Development
4:20 pm
Mon June 9, 2014

HUD: Seattle APodment Developer Must Make Units Accessible For Disabled People

A Seattle apartment development company that has been building so-called aPodments will have to retrofit one of its complexes to make the building accessible for people with disabilities following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

APodments are micro-housing developments that have been springing up around Seattle in the past couple of years. They consist of a number of small apartments with shared kitchens and common areas. 

Centro LLC is the owner and developer of the building in question, a 56-unit Capitol Hill property managed by Calhoun Property Management.

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Business
5:00 am
Mon June 9, 2014

What Is The Farm Guest Worker Program And Why Is It Controversial In Wash. State?

Berry pickers showed up in a Skagit County court as they brought a lawsuit against Sakuma Brothers Farms. They said the farm was trying to exclude them from work and instead bring in foreign guest workers under the H-2A program.
Ashley Gross KPLU

People in Seattle are familiar with the H-1B visa program that brings high-tech employees from abroad, but another, more obscure foreign worker program has churned up a lot of controversy in the state recently.

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Business
4:41 pm
Tue June 3, 2014

Governor-Appointed Group To Tackle Farm Labor Issues In Wash. State

FILE - Workers at Sakuma Brothers Farms are seen at work.
Bellamy Pailthorp

After a tumultuous year in which berry pickers at a Skagit County farm went on repeated strikes, a new group appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee is set to start tackling farm labor issues. 

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Workers' Rights
1:59 pm
Mon June 2, 2014

Sakuma Brothers Farms Withdraws Application For H-2A Guest Workers

Steve Sakuma in front of newly renovated worker cabins at Sakuma Brothers Farms
Brett Davis Washington Farm Bureau

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Business
4:59 pm
Thu May 29, 2014

Sawant Declares Victory As Seattle Moves Closer To A $15/Hour Minimum Wage

Kshama Sawant and members of 15 Now cheer the vote by the city council committee to approve raising the minimum wage.
Ashley Gross KPLU

Seattle’s low-wage workers are closer to getting a raise. A city council committee unanimously voted to pass Mayor Ed Murray’s minimum wage plan, with some amendments.

Even Socialist city council member Kshama Sawant, who’s criticized the measure as too watered down, said it’s a victory for workers. 

The plan phases in a $15-an-hour minimum wage over a period of three to seven years, depending on how big the business is. City council members considered a number of amendments, including one to push the initial start date to April 1st next year instead of January 1st. That measure passed.

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The Lives Of Migrant Workers
5:00 am
Wed May 21, 2014

5 Things One Anthropologist Learned While Working As A Migrant Berry Picker In Wash.

Courtesy of Seth Holmes

Seth Holmes is a doctor and anthropologist at the University of California, Berkeley who did something that wouldn’t occur to most white, middle-class, highly-educated Americans.

About a decade ago, he spent a year and a half traveling, living with and working alongside migrant indigenous Mexican farmworkers from the state of Oaxaca. His stint included two seasons picking strawberries and blueberries on a large farm in Skagit County.

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Business
5:00 am
Tue May 20, 2014

Seattle Group To Hold Its First Investment Forum Solely For Women Entrepreneurs

Getting your startup company funded can be tough no matter what, but women entrepreneurs may face the additional challenge of overcoming gender bias.

A Seattle-based angel investing group called ZINO Society is holding its first-ever investment forum dedicated solely to women business owners. 

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Labor Dispute
5:00 am
Mon May 19, 2014

Berry Pickers Sue Sakuma Brothers Farms, Allege Retaliation After Last Year’s Strikes

FILE - Workers at Sakuma Brothers Farms are seen at work.
Bellamy Pailthorp KPLU

Editor's note: The story has been updated to clarify that the berry pickers formed a workers' association. They did not form a union by holding an election under the National Labor Relations Act.

Berry pickers who went on strike at Sakuma Brothers Farms in Skagit County several times last year have filed a suit against the company, alleging retaliation. The workers say Sakuma has blacklisted many of them from working this summer as payback for their walkouts.

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Labor Practices
5:00 am
Thu May 15, 2014

Janitors At UW Tacoma Rally Over Lack Of Benefits And Low Pay

Labor activists plan to rally today at the University of Washington Tacoma campus on behalf of the school’s janitorial workers. They’re drawing attention to the cleaning staff’s lack of benefits and low pay.

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Gay Rights
5:00 am
Wed May 14, 2014

Gay Eagle Scout Behind Petition Urging Amazon To Drop Support Of Boy Scouts

Geoff McGrath is seen on Tuesday, April 1, 2014, in Bellevue, Wash. The Boys Scouts of America has removed McGrath, an openly gay troop leader, after saying he made an issue out of his sexual orientation.
Elaine Thompson AP Photo

More than 90,000 people have signed a petition asking Amazon to drop its charitable support of Boy Scouts of America. The move comes after the national organization of the Boy Scouts last month fired Geoffrey McGrath, a gay Seattle Scoutmaster. 

Amazon has a program called AmazonSmile that will donate 0.5 percent of your purchase price to a charitable group of your choice. Boy Scouts of America is among the almost one million groups you can choose.

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