On Wednesday, AT&T’s CEO announced $1,000 bonuses for all AT&T employees. AT&T said the bonuses were the result of corporate tax cuts passed in Congress this week.
But the big payout was to President Donald Trump’s ego. AT&T was already in talks with its union to give holiday bonuses, that union told The Daily Beast. The telecom’s GOP-friendly press release makes it the latest company to praise Trump’s legislative agenda when they need a big favor from the White House.
AT&T’s announcement comes one week after the company reached a new contract agreement with its workers. The contract came after a year of pressure from the workers’ union, Communication Workers of America. But in the past month, CWA also pushed AT&T to add bonuses based on the GOP’s promises of middle class prosperity under the tax bill.
“Republicans, including the president, said the average household would get $4,000 under this tax plan,” CWA spokesperson Candice Johnson told The Daily Beast. Last month, CWA representatives began contacting AT&T, asking the company to give workers that $4,000 raise.
“This bonus came out of that conversation,” Johnson said. “It’s a start, and we’re going to keep holding our leaders accountable.”
The bonuses might buy more goodwill with the Trump administration. AT&T is currently attempting a merger with Time Warner, but faces opposition from Trump’s Justice Department. In November, the DOJ filed an antitrust lawsuit to block the merger. The week before the suit, Politico reported that the DOJ had threatened to block the merger if Time Warner did not sell CNN, a news network Trump frequently decries as “fake.” After AT&T’s Wednesday bonus announcement, Trump praised the telecom giant.
“This just came out… AT&T plans to increase U.S. capital spending $1 billion and provide $1,000 special bonus to more than 200,000 U.S. employees, and that’s because of what we did,” Trump said in a Wednesday press conference on the bill’s passage in Congress. “That’s pretty good. That’s pretty good.”
AT&T isn’t the first company to suck up to Trump for favors. On the campaign trail, Trump made a talking point of Indianapolis, Indiana’s Carrier plant, which makes heating and cooling systems. Carrier had announced it would outsource approximately 1,000 jobs to Mexico. In a much-hyped “deal,” Trump arranged to give Carrier $7 million in local tax breaks if they protected the Indianapolis jobs.
But beneath the press releases was an ugly reality: Carrier was still planning to outsource jobs in 2017. Those layoffs began earlier this year.
“There are some people who feel they were misled. Because he misled them,” Chuck Jones, president of the labor union representing Carrier workers told The Daily Beast earlier this year. “With him saying what he did that day, and not saying... that 550 jobs were still going to leave that facility and go to Mexico.”
The Japanese company SoftBank pulled a similar ego-stroking stunt shortly after Trump’s election. In October 2016, SoftBank announced plans for a $100 billion Saudi Arabia-backed tech investment fund. Much of that funding was forecasted to go to the U.S., where SoftBank has considerable holdings, and was expected to continue investing money. But when SoftBank announced a not-unexpected $50 billion U.S. investment in December 2016, Trump trumpeted it as a deal of his making. SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son “said he would never do this had we (Trump) not won the election!” Trump tweeted.
The investment was also good for SoftBank’s clout. The company owns the owns the wireless network Sprint, and has been eyeing a bid for U.S.-based network T-Mobile, but was discouraged by antitrust laws under the Obama administration. Under a White House more forgiving of companies stretching the limits on the maximum amount of legally allowable market share, SoftBank might make a new pass at a merger.
Even when companies aren’t trying to cozy up to the White House, Trump has been quick to claim their Obama-era gains as his own. In March, Ford announced plans to make major investments in its U.S. plants. But those plans were nothing new—they stemmed from a 2015 agreement with the United Auto Workers union.
“Major investment to be made in three Michigan plants,” Trump tweeted after the announcement. “Car companies coming back to U.S. JOBS! JOBS! JOBS!”That same month, Trump boasted of a $25 billion U.S. investment by Charter Communications “following my election victory.” In fact, the company had pledged the money before the election.
"Today I am thrilled to announce that Charter Communications has just committed to investing $25 billion,” Trump said during a May press conference, “with a B, $25 billion—you’re sure that’s right, right?”