The National Labor Relations Board has turned down a request of the U.S. Postal Service that it designate one union as the bargaining agent to talk with the government-owned corporation about a new contract covering 600,000 postal workers. The current three-year contract expires July 20, and it provided three pay raises, plus six partial cost-of-living adjustments, and a modified no-layoff clause. The three flat pay raises negotiated were $500 in July 1978 and another $500 last July. Because of the high inflation rate, the COL raises turned out to be worth a lot more. Those twice-yearly adjustments were for $187, $541, $749, $832, $624 and a $686-per-year raise effective last month.

USPS delayed bargaining talks due to begin earlier this year to ask the NLRB to designate a bargaining agent, from among the four major groups: National Association of Letter Carriers and Mail Handlers (a division of the Laborers International Union). The Letter Carriers are currently trying to organize the rural carriers, and the APWU is trying to convert members of the Mail Handlers union.

Leaders of the two big grousp, the NALC and APWU, have warned that there could be serious mail-delivery problems (like none) on July 21 unless contract talks are going well. So far there have not been any. Unless the postal service appeals the NLRB ruling, talks with all four groups should begin shortly. Union types say there isn't much time left.