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Major port strike possible if longshoremen's association, maritime alliance fail to reach agreement soon, National Retail Federation says

The National Retail Federation (NRF) recently sent a letter to President Barack Obama expressing growing concern about a potential coast-wide strike if a contract agreement isn't reached soon between the International Longshoremen's Association and United States Maritime Alliance Ltd.

The two parties have been negotiating an agreement with help from federal mediators the past few months "with little demonstrable progress," NRF officials said in a prepared statement, adding that the contract deadline of Dec. 29 is rapidly approaching. If the sides fail to extend negotiations or reach an agreement, a strike impacting 15 container ports along the East and Gulf coasts is "highly probable," they said. The last strike at the ports occurred in 1977.

"A strike of any kind at ports along the East and Gulf Coast could prove devastating for the U.S. economy," NRF President and Chief Executive Officer Matthew Shay wrote in the letter to Obama. "We call upon you to use all means necessary, including Taft-Hartley, to keep the two sides at the negotiating table and head off a coast-wide strike."

Any supply chain disruption at the ports would immediately impact every importer and exporter, potentially disrupting or delaying the supply of spring and summer retail merchandise, he wrote.

"We cannot afford further supply chain disruptions as we enter 2013,"  Shay said. "The two sides must remain at the negotiating table until a deal is reached."

A trade association, NRF represents the interests of retailers from the United States and more than 45 other countries.

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More News from 12/18/2012