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Auto worker from Lake Orion to speak as part of Democratic convention

A Michigan UAW official and team leader at General Motors' Lake Orion plant will speak at the Democratic National Convention next week as presumptive nominee Joe Biden continues a push to make bolstering the U.S. auto industry a key part of his campaign.

Gerald Lang, a 47-year-old vice president of UAW Local 5960 in Lake Orion, has been invited to speak as part of the convention, which will be held from various locations and online starting Monday, Aug. 17, and concluding Thursday, Aug. 20.

It was not immediately known when Lang would speak. The convention, originally scheduled to be held in Milwaukee, was decentralized and largely moved online because of concerns of spreading coronavirus.

In a statement provided by the Biden campaign, Lang said, "Joe Biden understands that auto workers are the heart of the economy in Michigan. And he’s spent his career fighting for us. He helped rescue the auto industry as vice president and now he has a plan to create a million new auto manufacturing jobs to ensure that American workers are powering the future of auto manufacturing across the world."

Biden, who was President Barack Obama's vice president, was part of that administration's efforts in 2009 that pumped some $80 billion into General Motors and Chrysler and moved them through a structured bankruptcy to get rid of debts. The vast majority of the funding was recovered and the effort is widely credited with helping to keep the domestic auto manufacturing industry afloat during the recession.

More: Trump making gains among several Michigan groups, new poll shows

More: Replay: President Trump speaks at Ford Motor Co. plant in Ypsilanti

In 2015, Trump, when he was running for president, suggested at an appearance in Michigan that while he wasn't necessarily opposed to the government aid that propped up GM and Chrysler, "You could have let it go bankrupt, frankly, and (rebuild) itself, and a lot of people felt it should happen. .... Either way would have been acceptable."

Trump defeated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in Michigan, which hadn't supported a Republican candidate for president since George H.W. Bush in 1988, by about two-tenths of 1% of the vote in 2016.

Biden is touting a plan he says would create a million new jobs in the U.S. auto industry — including in infrastructure, parts, and other related occupations — by making a push toward development of more electric vehicles and cleaner, more efficient technologies. His campaign surrogates, meanwhile, have criticized Trump for failing to deliver on promises to the auto industry.

While Trump did, as he promised when he was running in 2016, rewrite the North American Free Trade Agreement in such a way that it could help employ more U.S. autoworkers, earlier gains in auto and auto parts manufacturing were already in decline before the economic hit from the coronavirus pandemic took place beginning in March.

In January 2017, when Trump took office, there were some  955,800 people employed nationally in auto and auto parts manufacturing, a number that increased to 1.01 million by February 2018, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. By February of this year, that figure had declined to 998,700. It was down to 927,900 as of July after regaining some ground from the period when plants were shut down nationally because of the pandemic.

Trump also ran in 2016 on a policy to force American auto companies to scale back operations in other countries to bring jobs back to the U.S.

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