Most of the nation's 600,000-plus postal workers will get a special hand-delivered $500 check within the next few weeks. It represents a $150 "thank you" bonus from the U.S. Postal Service for quick union ratification of the new $4.8 billion, three-year contract between the mail-moving corporation and the National Association of Letter Carriers and American Postal Workers union, representing eight of every 10 workers.

Included in the special check will be the first of three annual $350 raises also provided by the contract. It also guarantees regular cost-of-living adjustments for workers under the contract, including about 12,000 here.

In their Oct. 23 paycheck, postal aides also will receive the basic annual pay raise of $300 called for in the contract that was ratified quickly (who says the mails are slow?) in a mail ballot.

The agreement between the USPS and its primary unions is one of the biggest in U.S. history. Under the COL provision, workers will get regular inflation-catchup raises. To date they have "banked" $166.40 per year (as of July) and will get a full COL catchup raise in November checks.

Retired Federal and Military Personnel will get a 12-month COL catchup raise next March 1 of at least 6.1 percent. Retirees formerly got COL adjustments each September and March, but Congress changed the law so that retirees will get only one COL raise -- each September -- a year.

There are more than 100,000 U.S. retirees in the metro Washington area. They will get a full, 12-month COL adjustment effective next March. It will show up in annuity checks received in early April 1982.

White collar federal workers -- there are 300,000 of them here -- will get a flat 4.8 percent raise that goes into effect with the pay period beginning on or after Oct. 1. Although official government data shows white collar feds are due more (to catch up with same-job pay levels in private industry), Congress (in the budget reconciliation bill) and the White House put a 4.8 percent limit on the amount that classified (General Schedule) U.S. workers can get this year.