As if Superstorm Sandy and the looming fiscal crisis weren't enough, a potential strike by thousands of dock workers from Boston to Houston threatens to shock the economy as early as this weekend.
Business groups and state officials in recent days have called on President Obama to intervene, and use emergency powers to "avoid a coast wide port shutdown." They warn it could cost billions, citing estimates that a 10-day port lockout in 2002 cost $1 billion a day -- and caused a major backlog in shipments.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott is the latest to enter the fray and call for White House intervention. But a port strike would affect more than the East and Gulf coasts, where all these ports are located. It could choke supply chains across the country. Groups ranging from the automobile industry to the National Retail Federation to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the Cheese Importers Association of America are warning of dire consequences.
"Failure to reach an agreement resulting in a coast wide shutdown will have serious economy-wide impacts," those and dozens of other groups wrote to Obama last week. They said "just the threat of a shutdown" has forced many businesses to enact costly "contingency plans."
At issue is a labor dispute between the International Longshoremen's Association, which represents dock workers, and the U.S. Maritime Alliance, which represents port operators and shipping companies.
Talks between the dock workers and the shipping companies broke down Dec. 18, just weeks after a critical West Coast port complex was crippled by a strike involving a few hundred workers.
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