A labor voice at Harvard: ex-union leader to study the underground economy (MA)

JULY 17, 2017

Mark Erlich was a familiar figure at construction sites as executive secretary of the state’s carpenters union. Now Erlich is hitting the hallowed halls of Harvard.

He’s joining the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School as a fellow. He’ll be working with professors and researchers at Harvard and other universities on issues of wages and the underground economy.

It’s a topic, he said, that is important not just for the construction industry but for the broader economy.

The research will focus on the rise of independent contractors and under-the-table compensation and how that affects public revenues, as well as identifying best practices for wage-enforcement programs.

During his 12 years heading the New England Regional Council of Carpenters, Erlich was a consistent voice against wage abuses, pushing legislators to strengthen penalties for wage theft.

Erlich said several heavy-hitters on labor issues from the Obama administration are now in the Boston area, and he hopes to work with them as they explore a changing economy in which companies rely more on contractors, rather than full-time staff.

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