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US President Joe Biden will join the picket line with striking auto workers on a historic trip to Michigan Tuesday, putting him on a collision course with likely 2024 election rival Donald Trump who visits a day later.
Democrat Biden, 80, is believed to be the first sitting president to walk the picket and says he wants to show solidarity with workers who have walked out on Detroit's "Big Three" carmakers.
Republican Trump had previously announced a visit to Michigan on Wednesday, and their dueling trips have ensured that a strike that already threatened major economic disruption will now become a political battleground.
For Biden, battling increasingly dismal poll ratings and struggling to get his message on the economy across to voters, the trip is a golden opportunity to woo blue-collar workers.
"This is going to be a historic trip," White house Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told a briefing on Monday, adding that it would "underscore that the president is the most the most pro-union president in history."
She insisted Biden's visit to the picket line in Wayne County, Michigan, was "absolutely not" influenced by Trump's planned trip to the state the following day.
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'Cheap photo op'
Trump, who looks set for a rematch with Biden in November next year, has accused Biden of copying him by going to the frontline of the auto workers strike.
Biden "saw that I was going to Michigan this week (Wednesday!), so the Fascists in the White House just announced he would go there tomorrow," Trump said in a post on social media.
Trump spokesman Jason Miller said Biden's visit was "nothing more than a cheap photo op."
President Biden has said he is going to "stand in solidarity" with the United Auto Workers (UAW) union as they get a "fair share" of profits from the car firms -- Ford, General Motors and Stellantis.
But his visit is also fraught with political risk, as he must tread a fine line between backing the workers and trying to end a strike that is costing the economy billions of dollars.
At the same time, it would have been awkward for Biden to turn down the UAW's invitation on Friday for him to come.
The White House's Jean-Pierre deflected a barrage of questions about whether Biden was taking sides in the dispute, saying the president wanted a "win-win" agreement.
"What we're saying is we're not going to get into this when it comes to negotiation," she added.
Support for trade unions has been a hallmark of Biden's presidency, and the UAW's endorsement in 2020 helped him flip the state from Trump in the last election.
However, the Democrat is also the driving force behind government-funded efforts to spark a historic shift in the automobile industry to more environmentally friendly electric vehicles.
Trump has used Biden's green plans to batter his rival with accusations of selling out American jobs to China.
"When he slowly walks to pretend he is a 'picket,' remember he wants to take your jobs away and give them to China," Trump wrote on his social media site Truth Social, in a message that was largely in capitals.
Trump's hopes of winning a second term in November 2024 largely rest on the same blue collar votes that he won in 2016 in battleground states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
He will speak on Wednesday in front of a plant that makes car parts in Clinton Township, Michigan, his campaign said, some 40 miles (65 kilometers) on the other side of Detroit from where Biden is speaking.
Democrats however have called into question the multi-millionaire property tycoon's own commitment to the unions.