The head of the union whose members deliver mail to the White House says President Bush is "in the same league as some of the world's most oppressive dictators." Why? Because the president vetoed a bill that would have relaxed rules on political activity covering U.S. civil servants.

In a statement to his 200,000-plus members, Vincent Sombrotto, of the National Association of Letter Carriers, linked the president with some of the world's bona fide bad guys. Bush deserves it, Sombrotto said, because of the strong-arm tactics he alleges were used to get three Republican senators -- Alfonse D'Amato of New York, Trent Lott of Mississippi and Pete Domenici of New Mexico -- to sustain his veto of the bill that would have liberalized the 51-year-old Hatch Act. That law limits what federal and postal workers can do in partisan political campaigns.

If you think linking Bush to the worst people on the Amnesty International hit parade is harsh, bear in mind that this is Washington, where politics is politics.

Also, federal and postal unions have decided to turn the Hatch Act defeat into an issue that will prompt members to send more donations to union political action campaign funds. Those PACs are used to help finance the campaigns of friendly politicians.

So far in the 1990 election cycle, the Letter Carriers union PAC has given almost $900,000 to candidates; the American Postal Workers, more than $400,000; the National Treasury Employees Union, about $90,000; and the American Federation of Government Employees, more than $68,000.

PACs, whatever their goal, need issues -- and an enemy -- to keep money flowing in. Federal unions sense they have an issue -- and an enemy -- because of the Hatch Act veto.

All of this means that the president is going to have to learn to live without being loved -- at least by key elements of the unionized section of his large work force.


Elaine S. Oran, a senior scientist at the Naval Research Laboratory, has been elected a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Ohio lawyer N. Victor Goodman has been named to the Foreign Service Impasse Disputes Panel. Other members of the group, which settles collective bargaining disputes in the State Department community, are chairman Margery F. Gootnick, a private lawyer-arbitrator; Julius Balog Jr., Labor Department; Anthony M. Kern, State Department; and Dianne Blane of the Agency for International Development.

Health Premium Rumor

Several people have called who heard reports that the government plans to make retirees pay their entire health premium. Not true! Currently the government pays about 60 percent of the total premium for workers and retirees.

There are several proposals to "reform" and revamp the federal health program.

But they are only proposals, and none of them would force retirees or workers to pay the full premium.