From the US Postal Service:
The mediation process with the National Association of Letter Carriers, AFL-CIO (NALC) has come to an impasse and will now enter into interest arbitration, a process which would conclude later this year.
The Postal Service is still in the mediation process with the National Postal Mail Handlers Union, AFL-CIO (NPMHU).
Contracts with both unions expired at midnight, Nov. 20, 2011. All parties agreed to extend negotiations until midnight, Dec. 16, 2011, and again until Jan. 20, 2012, at which time negotiations came to an impasse and then entered into mediation.
Under the statutory procedures that apply to postal labor negotiations, both sides first engage in mediation and, if unsuccessful, go to interest arbitration. The existing contracts will be followed until terms of a new contract are resolved.
The NALC represents nearly 195,000 employees who work as letter carriers delivering mail primarily in urban areas. The NPMHU represents more than 45,000 employees who work in mail processing plants and Post Offices. Respectively, wages and benefits for NALC- and NPMHU-represented employees exceeded $15.7 billion and $3.5 billion last year.
Unlike the private sector, when negotiations fail, postal employees are not permitted to strike as Congress has designated the Postal Service as an essential service to the nation. A neutral arbitrator determines the final outcome.