AT&T talks near strike deadline

American Telephone & Telegraph Company and union negotiators are hopeful that a near-deadline contract settlement can avert a nationwide telephone strike set for midnight Saturday - one that would have a serious impact on AT&T's soon-to-be divested subsidiaries.

But some officials of the Communications Workers of America were less optimistic, Monitor labor correspondent Ed Townsend reports. Preparations for a strike involving 525,000 of AT&T's 700,000 union employees have been completed. The union has begun contacting members of Congress, governors, and city and state officials, alerting them to the threat of service disruptions in a strike and urging them to pressure AT&T for a settlement.

AT&T has already dropped a controversial demand for health-cost limits and modified other contract proposals in a new package offered to the union. This could open up the negotiations in the last days before the strike deadline. Even if there is a nationwide walkout, services will continue. The telephone industry is now so automated that nonstriking supervisors and white-collar workers can maintain nearly normal operations for an extended time.

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