Wall Street workers and union hands may seem like total opposites, but employees at an iconic investment bank are countering those preconceived notions.
That's right, some Goldman Sachs workers in Japan are unionizing, according to the Japan Times (h/t Dealbook). The workers made the decision after the bank allegedly attempted to convince certain employees to voluntarily resign in order to get around Japanese labor laws that make laying off workers difficult.
Despite the laws, Goldman has managed to shed some jobs in Japan. The firm was among a group of banks that have slashed nearly 2,000 jobs in Japan since June 2010, largely as a result of the global financial crisis and the March earthquake and tsunami, according to Bloomberg.
This is surely not the first time workers in Japan have been upset at Goldman. Following the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the company reportedly asked its employees to stay in the country or risk being fired, even as concerns over radiation mounted, according to a March CNBC report.
And Goldman's union might have a difficult time making inroads going forward. Historically, Japanese unions have been firm-specific, meaning they lack the power of organizing workers in an entire industry, according to a 1993 paper from economists at Harvard. In addition, Japanese unions often accept the goals of their firms more readily than their U.S. counterparts.
Still, bank workers in the U.S. are unlikely to unionize any time soon. It's already been tried, anyway. In 2008, after taxpayers bailed out the banks to the tune of $700 billion, the Service Employees International Union sent an email aiming to organize bank workers, according to CNN. In addition, SEIU tried to get tellers at Bank of America and other big banks to unionize in 2009, according to CBS.
Though those previous attempts may not have been wildly successful, American bank workers might have more reason to consider unionizing than they have in the past. Bank profits rose to a five-year high in 2011, even as Wall Street workers were laid off and saw their bonuses and pay slashed.