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GM-UAW deal reflects broad worker issues

WASHINGTON, Oct. 3 (UPI) -- The landmark United Auto Workers and General Motors Corp. labor contract speaks to similar job issues throughout the U.S. economy, economists said.

Health insurance, job security and living standards were key to GM and the UAW and are key to the rest of U.S. workers, even though 92 percent of the private-sector workforce is non-union, economists spot-checked by The Christian Science Monitor said.

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"The disconnect between (economic) growth and living standards is something that's very much in the public debate," labor-oriented Economic Policy Institute economist Jared Bernstein said.

"It's been a period of great productivity growth, (but) "workers ... have some of the least clout of anyone in this economy," he says.

In recent years, U.S. per-hour productivity has grown faster than hourly pay and benefits, U.S. government data show.

And the money from the growing productivity increasingly goes to upper-income people, with the bottom 80 percent of U.S. workers backsliding economically, the newspaper said, citing Merrill Lynch & Co. research.

"From healthcare costs to global competition, American workers are looking for new answers, not just the status quo," the newspaper said.

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