Members of the Communications Workers of America authorized a strike against AT&T Inc., the union said on Friday, but the company was optimistic about reaching a deal before the contract expires next week.
The contract covering more than 11,000 workers expires at midnight on Dec. 10. The union said in a statement on Friday that it was concerned over proposals to reduce or eliminate retiree health benefits.
"The parties are still far apart on a number of important issues," CWA Vice President Ralph Maly said in the statement.
AT&T spokeswoman Claudia Jones said, "We are in daily negotiations with the CWA and remain optimistic that a fair settlement can be reached."
The negotiations do not affect members of the CWA or International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers at SBC Communications, Jones said. SBC acquired AT&T on Nov. 18, though the combined company is known as AT&T Inc.