Which is best? Guaranteed regular pay raises of a fixed amount, or linkage to the cost-of-living? The answer if you ask the typical postal worker is: Both!

Thanks to a keep-pace-with-inflation clause in their union contract, postals have received $1,500 in regular pay raises over the past two years plus nearly $3,000 in cost of living adjustments -- with more to come. Postals are due another COL raise this November, and another inflation catchup next May. Value of the two is estimated at an additional $1,100.

The compounded value of the regular plus COL raises for postal workers will be about 29.1 percent. During the same period the compound value of comparable raises for white collar workers, who do not get COL raises and depend on the president to set raise amounts, will total 23.3 percent. That figure includes the 9.1 percent due most white-collar feds next month.

Because of the combination of regular pay raises and COL adjustments -- won at the threat of a strike -- the pay for the average postal worker (now at $19,594) is getting close to the average white collar federal salary of approximately $21,000.

The pay gains won by postal workers and their unions are one reason white collar federal union leaders are pushing hard for full-scale collective bargaining rights, and one reason both Congress and the White House have been reluctant to give them.