The employees in the operator's traditional wireline telephone business are still working under the terms of the expired contract according to AT&T and the Communications Workers of America union, which had authorized a strike but not yet called on workers to walk out.
Another contract covering another 32,000 employees in the Southeast regions had been part of the ongoing talks but the company said that talks for this contract, which expires on August 8, have now been adjourned until July.
Healthcare costs have been a key point of contention between the union and the company. AT&T says that its workers pay only 8 percent of their healthcare costs, similar to auto workers but much lower than the 34 percent it says average U.S. workers pay.
It said that its goal is to achieve a more market-based health care plan that continues to provide good health care coverage.
The union argued in a written statement that since the company remains profitable even in the tough economy it is difficult to understand why At&T is demanding workers to take on even more health care costs.
It said that several CWA districts filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board accusing AT&T of refusing to provide information necessary to resolve many outstanding issues.
There has been little progress in the areas of health care, retirement security and employment security, the union said.
(Editing by Martin Golan)