Retailers press the White House to help stave off port strike

Despite negotiations with federal mediators, the two sides are at an impasse. Talks are expected to continue this week. 

Without an agreement, a strike could affect 15 container ports — Boston, New York/New Jersey, Delaware River, Baltimore, Hampton Roads, Wilmington, Charleston, Savannah, Jacksonville, Port Everglades, Miami, Tampa, Mobile and New Orleans, which would be the first strike since 1977. 

Shay called on the president to "use all means necessary."

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

The letter suggested invoking Taft-Hartley, which protects the free flow of commerce and was last used by President George W. Bush during the 2002 West Coast ports lockout. 

That strike cost the economy an estimated $1 billion a day and took the supply chain more than six months to recover. 

Any supply chain disruption at the ports this time around would immediately delay spring and summer retail merchandise, the letter said. 

"The U.S. economy cannot afford to wait for a strike to occur before we see administration action," Shay said.  

"We urge you to get engaged now with these parties to ensure a strike does not occur.”