HomeAsian AmericansWorkers at Cathay Pacific Airways Lose Social Security and Medicare Benefits

Workers at Cathay Pacific Airways Lose Social Security and Medicare Benefits

Cathay Pacific Worker Protest
By Louis Chan
AsAmNews National Correspondent

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) are asking the Social Security Administration to investigate Cathay Pacific Airways decision to deny its U.S.-based workers access to Social Security and Medicare.

The move by the airline not to withhold payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare affects nearly 500 employees based in the United States.

Dozens of them protested at Union Square in San Francisco Tuesday right across from the high rise office of Cathay Pacific.

Cathay Pacific Airway protest
Cathay Pacific workers and their supporters protest at Union Square in San Francisco

The airlines says as a foreign airline, it cannot legally withhold these taxes.

“It’s important to stress this was not a decision based on cost savings,” said Cathay Pacific Airways in a statement. “It was driven only by statutory requirement contained in the U.S. tax code.”

Members of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA joined in the protest as well as many community members.

“If other corporations can get away claiming that they’re non-American not having to pay American benefits, we’re all in trouble,” said Rev. Norman Fong, Executive Director of the Chinatown Community Development Center in San Francisco.

The controversy has been a lightening rod for union organizing efforts by Cathay Pacific workers.They are currently organizing for an election to join the flight attendant union.Cathay Pacific Worker Protest

“Injustice for one is injustice for all,” said Janny Wan, a United flight attendant and member of the Association of Flight Attendants. “We are here to support our brothers and sisters.”

In their letter to the Social Security Administration, Feinstein and Speier wrote “We were troubled by the fact that Cathay’s U.S. citizen employees may no longer be able to participate in the Social Security and disability systems, as well as in California’s unemployment and disability systems. There are several foreign airlines operating at San Francisco International Airport with thousands of employees. If Cathay’s interpretation of the law is correct, it could potentially impact these employees.”

Cathay Pacific flies to a number of countries including China, India, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Pakistan, Thailand, Taiwan and Vietnam.

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