A contract between a communications workers union and AT&T expired early Sunday, but employees have chosen to remain on the job for now.

Members of Communications Workers of America working at AT&T Southeast overwhelmingly voted July 19 to authorize a strike against the utility. Negotiations commenced June 24.

The current wireline contracts cover more than 22,000 workers in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. The contracts do not cover AT&T Mobility workers.

The CWA said it is negotiating primarily about quality health-care coverage, higher wages, job security and investment in local communities.

If the workers strike, customers could face delays in installing new service, completing repairs and resolving problems.

“The contract didn’t have to expire, but it did because AT&T has not been taking our proposals seriously,” Richard Honeycutt, vice president of CWA District 3, said in a statement.

“For weeks, we have pressed AT&T Southeast to move off of their bargaining demands that will hurt workers, their families and our communities. We are ready to bargain for a fair and just contract, but we need AT&T Southeast to be ready to do the same.”

AT&T has not issued a statement about the extended negotiations.

On the bargaining link on its website, it continues to list a quote from Mark Royse, its executive vice president for labor relations, that says “we have a longstanding cooperative relationship with our unions, and we’re committed to working together to bargain fair contracts that will allow us to continue to provide those careers.”

AT&T chief executive Randall Stephenson said in 2017 that the utility would invest $1 billion and create 7,000 jobs if Congress passed the corporate tax-cut plan that went into effect Jan. 1, 2018.

The union said AT&T has eliminated at least 27,828 jobs since the tax cut passed, including 4,500 in the second quarter.

Meanwhile, AT&T reported July 23 having second-quarter profits of $3.7 billion. Its income tax expense was $1.1 billion, down from $1.53 billion a year ago.

“AT&T received over $21 billion in tax cuts and then proceeded to cut jobs and upend workers’ lives,” CWA said.

On June 30, AT&T reached a tentative agreement with CWA District 4 for wireline contract negotiations that cover employees in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.

rcraver@wsjournal.com 336-727-7376 @rcraverWSJ

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