Erlich, Mark

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Company overseeing Boston garage demolition has faced lawsuits from other injured workers

March 29, 2022

Beth Healy and Christine Willmsen
WBUR

Peter Monsini, who died in a tragic accident at a Boston construction site Saturday, was not the first worker to be seriously injured on a JDC Demolition Co. worksite.

The Brockton-based company has paid large settlements in recent years in at least three lawsuits brought by workers who got hurt on the job and blamed JDC and other contractors.

Mark Erlich, a fellow at Harvard Law School's Labor and Worklife Program and a retired officer of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters, said big job sites like these are supposed to have many checks on safety protocols. But things don't always go right.

"Every now and then, there will be one of these tragic incidents," he said, "that reminds people why construction is so dangerous."... Read more about Company overseeing Boston garage demolition has faced lawsuits from other injured workers

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Infrastructure bills are kicking off billions in construction projects. Will workers of color get the jobs?

February 7, 2022

By Chris Burrell
WGBH News

Workers of color now make up almost a quarter of the state’s workforce in the building trades, their numbers climbing 30 percent from a decade ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But those trends aren’t clear in the state’s track record for hiring workers of color on public construction jobs. And with an infrastructure boom on the horizon fueled by federal funding, labor experts say the state has an opportunity to do better.

Despite a 2016 state mandate requiring all state agencies to track minority workers’ hours on...

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Biden to sign order mandating PLAs on federal construction projects

February 4, 2022

Zachary Phillips
Construction DIve

Dive Brief:
President Joe Biden will sign an executive order Friday requiring project labor agreements on federal construction projects over $35 million, according to a White House fact sheet. 

The order, which is effective immediately, will impact $262 billion in federal construction contracts and affect nearly 200,000 workers. 

Nevertheless, the new executive order does not apply to work funded by grants to non-federal agencies, which includes the bulk of the projects funded under the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a senior official told Reuters. 

​​​​​​​Mark Erlich, fellow at Harvard's Labor and Worklife Program and retired executive of the New England Carpenters Union, said the advantages of PLAs are many.

"On larger projects, PLAs allow for an uninterrupted access to skilled labor working under standardized and uniform terms and conditions," he said. "I believe their value has been established and most of the objections have been refuted."... Read more about Biden to sign order mandating PLAs on federal construction projects

Can Progress on Diversity Be Union-Made?

Can Progress on Diversity Be Union-Made?

November 6, 2021

By Eduardo Porter
NY Times

In Boston, setting a goal for a racially diverse construction work force is one thing. Meeting it has proved more difficult.

“There is a legacy of racism, which by no means has been eliminated,” Mr. Erlich said. “I respect folks in the community that complain that things are not changing fast enough. And they are not changing fast enough.” Still, he argues, unions realize that “they need to become less homogeneous and reflect the demographics of the city.”

And he warns that the nonunion contractors that will...

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Is 'Striketober' the moment construction unions have been waiting for?

October 28, 2021

, Senior Reporter
Construction Dive

The convergence of worker shortages, supply chain snarls and vaccine mandates could give labor the upper hand at the bargaining table, experts say.

But the broader trend of American workers demanding higher wages and better working conditions almost two years into the chaos caused by the COVID-19 pandemic raises the question: Could more strikes be ahead for construction, too?

"What we're facing now gives unions leverage at the bargaining table, whether they strike or not," said Mark Erlich, a fellow in the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School, and former executive secretary-treasurer of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters. "It at least will help them get better agreements."

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Gig workers deserve employment protections

December 18, 2020

Mark Erlich
Boston Globe 

The misclassification of employees as independent contractors predates the emergence of the gig economy and has been a method of skirting the cost of standard worker protections.

In the midst of all the presidential transition drama, one of the most overlooked but consequential outcomes of the November election was the victory of Proposition 22 in California. Funded by Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Instacart, and Postmates to the tune of a record-breaking $200 million, the ballot measure exempted ride-hailing and delivery drivers from a 2019 law, Assembly Bill 5, which brings California’s gig economy into compliance with conventional employment laws.

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Misclassification in Construction: The Original Gig Economy

November 26, 2020

by Mark Erlich
ILR Review

The misclassification of employees as independent contractors has been the focus of recent attention as a result of the implementation of that employment model by ride-share and other gig employers. But the practice long predates the emergence of the gig economy, particularly in the construction industry. This article traces the history of misclassification in construction and the subsequent emergence of a cash-based underground system of compensation, which have lowered standards and been among the major causes of the decline of union density in the industry. In addition, the author examines the regulatory environment at the federal level, which has largely enabled misclassification as well as attempts by state agencies to adopt more aggressive enforcement policies. Downloand Article 

Construction Workers and the Gig Economy

Construction Workers and the Gig Economy

April 14, 2020

by Mark Elich
Dissent Magazine

The problem of independent contracting as a business model is more important than ever. While the CARES Act fortunately included independent contractors as recipients of unemployment benefits, food delivery and other gig workers still face unprecedented challenges in the absence of protections from unions or employment laws. There will be life after the pandemic and employers across all industries that suffered financial losses will be looking to cut costs. One of the obvious tactics may well be an uptick in the misclassification of employees as independent contractors. Hopefully an alternate vision will emerge, one in which unprotected but indispensable workers will seek a voice through a fight against misclassification, and the growth of unions and other forms of organization.

Worker Misclassification in Washington State Leads to Millions in Revenue Losses, New Harvard Report Details

December 16, 2019

Widespread misclassification of workers could mean millions of dollars uncollected and thousands of workers underpaid and without benefits

OLYMPIA, WASHINGTON — The number of employers engaging in worker misclassification in Washington state has risen substantially over the last 10 years. Misclassification has resulted in the denial of pay and benefits for tens of thousands of workers as well as millions of dollars in lost revenue, according to a new study from researchers with Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program.... Read more about Worker Misclassification in Washington State Leads to Millions in Revenue Losses, New Harvard Report Details

Report

Press Conference to release “Confronting Misclassification and Payroll Fraud” report

June 26, 2019

Massachusetts Atorney General Maura Healey held a press conference at the State House to highlight the LWP report  “Confronting Misclassification and Payroll Fraud,” by Mark Erlich and Terri Gerstein. The report details the increasing role of state agencies in enforcing misclassification laws and providing worker protections, crucial in an era of lax federal enforcement. 

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Link to Press Release