HARTFORD, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) — American Red Cross workers in Connecticut authorized their contract negotiators Sunday to call a strike, if necessary, to reach an agreement with the agency.

Larry Dorman, a spokesman for the AFSCME Local 3145, would not release the vote totals but said a “clear margin” was in favor of authorizing a strike. He said Red Cross workers in other states also will be taking strike authorization votes this week.

Some 200 nurses, technicians and other professionals in Connecticut are represented by the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, Dorman said. A coalition of unions represents nearly 4,000 Red Cross workers.

Their contract expired in April 2009 but there have been few talks, Dorman said.

Still, he said, “It remains our goal to try to reach an agreement at the negotiating table.”

Donna M. Morrissey, a Red Cross spokeswoman for the Connecticut region, expressed disappointment with the vote.

“We are disappointed that union leaders are seeking another strike at a time when the need for blood is high and supplies are tight, and hope that AFSCME leaders will agree to continue negotiations…,” she said in a statement.

The union says the Red Cross has ignored requests to bargain and is imposing higher health insurance deductibles with fewer benefits while halting employer contributions to the 401k plan.

The Red Cross had no comment Sunday on the contract proposal.

A coalition of unions represents Red Cross employees in California, Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

The union says there have been several job actions since the contract expired in 2009. In June 2010, more than 1,000 Red Cross blood collection workers briefly went on strike.

Last month, about 250 Red Cross nurses and donation collection workers waged a strike in Philadelphia and southern New Jersey for three weeks, the AFL-CIO said. The workers agreed to a 90-day cooling-off period and returned to work June 16.

Do you agree with this strike authorization? Sound off in our comments section below…

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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