Carl Sadler, the man who would be president of the government's biggest union, says he feels like a guy who wins all the battles and winds up losing the war. Sadler has been working, since last August, to force the American Federation of Government Employees to rerun the election it held in Honolulu, where Sadler lost (102,198 to 93,229) to incumbent president Kenneth T. Blaylock.

Sadler and supporters claimed that the 1980 election was conducted improperly because a substantial number of delegates to the convention had been elected improperly. AFGE has more than 1,500 locals from downtown Washington to Guam and Germany. Sadler claimed that as many as 40,000 of the convention votes were cast by delegates with "questionable' credentials.

He took his case to the Labor Department, which last week said that he was probably right, but that time is too short to do anything about the 1980 election since AFGE will hold another election in August 1982 in New York City.

The department signed an agreement with AFGE last week in which AFGE agreed to have delegates to the 1982 New York convention selected under Labor Department supervision, and to have the Labor Department oversee the election at the convention.

Richard Hunsucker, the director of labor management services and enforcement for the Labor Department said Friday that his investigators ". . . found violations which could have affected the election" but that because of the time necessary to litigate the case and select new delegates, a 1980 election rerun had not been ordered. "There were sufficient grounds to set aside the election in our minds," Hunsucker said, adding that if AFGE had three- or five-year terms for officers "we would have taken action" to order a new election.

"We found no fradulent action," Hunsucker said, "not fraud or anything morally bad . . . but technical stuff, failure to carry out procedures" in the selection of delegates.

"The only reason we didn't order a new election," he said, "was the time" involved in going through the legal process. He said that by the time Labor investigators could have overseen the election of delegates and held a new election "we would have been bumping up against the time for the next convention." He said the remedy, given the time constraints, is that "we insisted on supervised elections" for 1982.

Hunsucker said he did not know how many delegates at the AFGE convention were selected improperly as Sadler's petition alleged. "I wouldn't even comment if I did," Hunsucker said, because it is still an "open case."

Sadler said he is considering legal action to force a new election. "I'll be talking with my lawyer next week," he said on Friday.

In announcing the agreement with the Labor Department, the AFGE said, "The Department of Labor failed to find any wrongdoing by the union's incumbent officers. However, Labor investigators raised questions regarding the manner in which some AFGE locals elected convention delegates. The agreement renders those questions moot and assures that neither AFGE nor the Department of Labor will be subject to litigation regarding the delegate selection process for the union's 1980 convention."

The official union position is that the matter is over and done with. Sadler, who is no longer a union official (he once was its chief lobbyist and later political fund-raiser), says, to clean it up for a family newspaper audience, that it is neither over nor done with.