December 20, 2017 / 8:45 PM / in a month

UPDATE 3-AT&T, two banks offer bonuses, pay hikes in wake of U.S. tax reform

(Adds Comcast bonuses, detail on AT&T bonuses)

NEW YORK, Dec 20 (Reuters) - AT&T Inc, Wells Fargo & Co and Boeing Co were among American companies promising more pay for workers or more investment in training on Wednesday after the biggest overhaul of the U.S. tax code in 30 years.

The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives gave final approval to the tax bill on Wednesday, which cuts the corporate tax rate to 21 percent from 35 percent, and sent it to U.S. President Donald Trump for his signature.

The companies’ announcements gave at least some support to claims by Trump and fellow Republicans that their tax bill would lead to more investment by U.S. companies with the money they save.

AT&T, the No. 2 U.S. wireless carrier, said it will pay $1,000 bonuses to more than 200,000 employees and invest an additional $1 billion in the United States in 2018, once the tax reform bill is signed into law. An AT&T spokesman said the bonuses were unrelated to the $1,000 that 20,000 AT&T Mobility employees will receive as part of an agreement with the Communications Workers of America announced last week.

Employees eligible for the bonus are all “union-represented, non-management and front-line managers,” AT&T said in a statement. The company has more than 250,000 employees in all. The bonuses will cost the company at least $200 million, but the precise amount is not yet known, the company said.

Cable provider Comcast Corp also said it would give $1,000 bonuses to more than 100,000 employees and invest $50 billion over the next five years in its infrastructure. Wells Fargo & Co said the bank will hike minimum hourly pay to $15 an hour in March, up 11 percent from its previous minimum. It will also offer new restricted stock awards to 250,000 employees.

Regional U.S. bank Fifth Third Bancorp said it would raise the hourly wage for nearly 3,000 of its employees to $15 and give a one-time bonus of $1,000 to more than 13,500 employees, which its CEO said was made possible by the corporate tax cut.

The company said it expected to distribute the bonuses by year-end, assuming Trump signs the bill by Christmas – which is not certain - and that the pay increases would go into effect once the bill became law.

Aerospace company Boeing Co also said on Wednesday it would invest $300 million in workforce training and facilities enhancements for employees as its CEO lauded the tax bill.

REPUBLICANS PRAISE, DEMOCRATS DON‘T

Republican senators, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Trump praised the announcements.

“Within hours of passing #taxreform, we’re already seeing announcements that companies plan to give back to their employees and invest more at home,” said Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia on Twitter. “Good news for workers and the economy!”

Democrats, who opposed the bill, offered no congratulations. Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer of New York criticized AT&T on the Senate floor.

“AT&T - big American company, fine American company – their tax rate over the last 10 years was a mere 8 percent, and they cut 80,000 jobs,” he said. “That one statistic belies all this trickle-down bunk that our Republican colleagues still cling to even though it’s outdated and disproven.”

AT&T is in the process of acquiring Time Warner Inc for $85.4 billion, but the U.S. Department of Justice has sued AT&T to block the deal, saying it could raise prices for rivals and hamper development of online video. (Reporting by Anjali Athavaley in New York and David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Bill Rigby)

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