Evan Soltas, a Princeton student writing fluently from a platform at Bloomberg View, should be praised for touching off a vigorous debate among print journalists, bloggers and other commentators (including me) over the role of unions in the U.S. economy. As for the points he's raised and on which he's now doubling down in reaction to criticism he's received, they're still wrong.
It's proper to remember that what really set off this discussion was the United Auto Workers' recent defeat in an organizing vote at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. In that vote the union wasn't opposed by the company but by Republican political leaders across Tennessee, who threatened to destroy the plant by withdrawing public subsidies if the union won.
The vote was close, 53% to 47%. If 44 workers out of the more than 1,300 had voted differently, today we'd be talking about a union breakthrough instead of the end of organized labor in America. The most penetrating and unsentimental analysis of the event comes from former union organizer Rich Yeselson, here and here.
Among other things, he observes that union organizing is hard no matter where you are, and certainly no easier in a traditionally anti-union region, in a factory where the treatment of workers is pretty good, and by a union that has allowed itself to give too much back to management in other plants as part of its effort to preserve the domestic auto industry.
Back to Soltas. His original piece is here. It...