National postal workers should be congratulated for exercising responsibility in accepting what amounted to the best possible contract their leaders could negotiate with the US Postal Service. Despite denials to the contrary by union leaders, it seems clear that the tough position of the Reagan administration toward the striking air traffic controllers figured strongly in the overwhelming membership approval of the postal contract.
The agreement is also a victory for the administration. By presenting postal workers with what it considered a fair contract, and then insisting that it was the "best offer" that could be made, the administration -- in this case working through a quasi-independent federal agency -- has reaffirmed the image of toughness and eyeball-to-eyeball bargaining evident in the earlier controllers' negotiations.
Many postal workers had sought more than the terms offered by the government, just as was the case with the air controllers. The controllers, however, who like the postal workers are barred from striking, went on to reject the government's offer. The $4.8 billion postal settlement itself works out to an increase amounting to about $2,100 over three years for a typical worker, plus unlimited cost-of-living adjustments determined on a formula basis.
Unlike the impasse in the controllers' strike, everyone appears to win something in this settlement -- the postal union leaders, the workers, the Reagan administration. And not least of all the American people who can now look forward to uninterrupted mail delivery, come foul weather or fair.