By Josh Boak / Associated Press
WASHINGTON — After an exchange between AT&T’s CEO and a union representing its workers, the company said it took steps to pay workers a $1,000 bonus in response to President Donald Trump’s tax cuts.
The announcement by the company Wednesday had raised questions about whether it was attempting to curry favor with Trump. The president has been a vocal critic of AT&T’s proposed $85 billion merger with Time Warner, which also owns CNN — the media outlet the Trump administration has treated as a nemesis.
Other companies quickly followed AT&T’s lead, including Boeing, Comcast and Wells Fargo. This led to questions among corporate watchdogs about whether this was a coordinated effort to generate public support for a plan that bestows much of its benefits on the wealthy and corporations.
But Dallas-based AT&T said its decision to give a bonus to 200,000 workers stemmed from an inquiry by the Communications Workers of America, a union representing many of its workers.
The union sent a letter to AT&T last month asking it to guarantee workers would receive the $4,000 raise that White House economists said would be the result of the corporate tax cuts. Few mainstream economists believe the $1.5 trillion tax cut will lead to annual wage gains of that magnitude.
AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said in a phone call with the head of the union that company couldn’t do the $4,000 raise but was considering a $1,000 bonus to union and non-union employees, company spokesman Larry Solomon said.
Candice Johnson, a spokeswoman for the union, said Stephenson first discussed the bonus with CWA president Chris Shelton last week.
Before announcing the bonus on Wednesday, Stephenson said AT&T gave a quick heads up to members of Congress and the White House, as well as informing the Business Roundtable, an association representing CEOs.