Federal and postal unions are building up what they hope will be big war chests to fight legislative battles on Capitol Hill, and help friends and defeat enemies (mostly incumbent Republicans) in the coming election.

The National Association of Retired Federal Employees, biggest of the groups (500,000 members) with the lowest dues structure ($9 a year), expects to raise over $1 million for its legislative efforts. Last year NARFE got more than $900,000 in less than one month after its president sent members a letter asking for financial help to fight changes in the retirement system and oppose mandatory Social Security coverage for federal workers.

The American Postal Workers Union has set a $250,000 fundraising goal for its Committee on Political Action "to defeat 'righties'" (right-wing legislators) "who have voted against the best interests of postal workers and their families."

National Association of Letter Carriers, the National Treasury Employees Union and National Federation of Federal Employees are also urging members to contribute separately (members' dues cannot, legally, be used for political purposes) to political funds.

American Federation of Government Employees in particular is expanding its legislative efforts to include social issues that do not bear directly on civil service employment but that affect the welfare and jobs of many federal workers. AFGE is bringing in 250 local political action leaders here next week to discuss and set a political agenda for the big AFL-CIO union.