What I mean by “high risks and high costs” of unionism. From the inception of the industrial revolution the U.S. government and private capitalist armies like the Pinkertons, regularly slaughtered, red-baited, non-personed, blacklisted, fired, starved, hung, jailed, deported, etc. many tens of thousands of workers – immigrant and native-born alike --for organizing and belonging to unions.
After WW1, red-baiting become the common national ideology and it was used with viciousness. By the 1930s, on the verge of a class-based revolution, FDR figured out how to co-opt a good part of the working-class and WW2 allowed him the means and methods to do it. A white peoples’ New Deal ran hand-in-hand with an ongoing Red Scare in which unions were formally incorporated into the capitalist state apparatus in 1955 with the merger of the business union AFL with the more militant and progressive CIO.
The rapid decline of union membership (it hit a height of 35% in 1953) began then. Throw in Taft-Hartley (1947) and other repressive laws and union red-baiting that destroyed many thousands more of workers’ lives and gutted union power and we have what we have today.
Your pay, pension and benefits are very much a result of all this. As is my Social Security. For a majority of white workers and some ethnic minorities this was the “golden age” of unions (1950-1970). Those days are done and it will require more and greater nonviolent class warfare to achieve. High-risk, high-cost all the way.