The U.S. Postal Service and its largest union, the American Postal Workers Union, agreed on a three-year contract on Dec. 18 through binding arbitration. The union, which represents postal clerks, has been working without a contract for more than a year. The new contract, which covers the period of Nov. 20, 2000, through Nov. 20, 2003, calls for a 4.4% general wage increase over three years, including a 1.2% wage increase retroactive to Nov. 18, 2000; a 1.8% increase retroactive to Nov. 17, 2001; and a 1.4% increase effective Nov. 16, 2002. While the contract allows for a continuation in cost-of-living adjustments, it also provides a cash payment of $499 instead of such payments for the first year.