July 9, 2014 at 4:16 pm

Biden to speak at Netroots convention in Detroit

Washington — Vice President Joe Biden will be returning to Detroit next week to speak at Netroots Nation — a gathering of thousands of self-described progressive or liberal activists who will hear from several prominent Democrats.

Biden — who spent two days in Detroit in January — has paid significant attention to the Motor City and its financial issues.

This will mark at least his 14th trip to Michigan since taking office. He also spoke to the United Auto Workers union’s District of Columbia convention in February and visited two auto shows to look at U.S.-made cars. He even was filmed in a new Chevrolet Corvette for a video that aired during the White House Correspondents Dinner and has repeatedly talked about his love of American-made cars and driving.

He will speak at 3:30 p.m. next Thursday on the opening day of the conference, his office confirmed.

The ninth annual gathering of the Netroots runs July 17-20 and includes 80 panels, 40 training sessions, keynote speeches, film screenings and other sessions that organizers say are aimed at inspiring “the nation’s next generation of progressive leaders.” The group calls it “a giant family reunion for the left.”

Also speaking is Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., a first-term senator who has won support among many progressive activists. Other speakers include Michigan U.S. Senate candidate Gary Peters, the Bloomfield Township Democratic congressman; U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing; and U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit.

One panel is titled “Hunger First: The Importance of Food Security in Detroit, and Why We’re so Hungry (for Change).” Another panel, “Organizing the South: The Times They Are a-Changing,” will look at Volkswagen AG workers in Chattanooga, Tenn., who unsuccessfully sought to organize a German-style works council.

The conference is backed by organized labor — and Biden has strongly defended the role of unions. Last month, he appeared in a tribute video for outgoing UAW President Bob King.

He is mulling a run for president in 2016 — and his courting of autoworkers could be a key factor.

dshepardson@detroitnews.com