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BellSouth Union Authorizes Strike

The union representing more than half of BellSouth's employees said Monday its members voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike if negotiations fail to produce a new contract.

BellSouth spokeswoman Deborah Spicer said company officials remain confident a settlement will be reached with the Communications Workers of America. The union represents 48,000 workers in BellSouth's nine-state Southeast region.

The union's three-year contract expires at midnight Saturday. The two sides met over the weekend and resumed negotiations Monday.

Spicer said key issues include retiree and health benefits, the company's contracting-out of work, job security and what the union calls "forced overtime."

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BellSouth hasn't had a strike since it was created in 1984 in the breakup of AT&T. The CWA went on strike against AT&T for three weeks in 1983.

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