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Shopper alert! Will labor strike at L.A. ports mean bare shelves?

The holiday inventory is already in place, but goods for the post-Christmas sales are bottled up off the coast of Los Angeles, as container ships from Asia go unattended due to a six-day labor strike.

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Anchored container ships sit offshore near the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach during a strike by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 Office Clerical Unit in Los Angeles, California, December 2.

Jonathan Alcorn/Reuters

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The labor strike at the ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif., the two biggest ports in the US, probably won't keep toys and TVs off the shelves for the holiday season, but it is likely to affect white sales and other annual post-Christmas mega-bargains if it is not resolved soon.

Besides hitting retailers, many analysts say, the six-day-old strike is beginning to disrupt the just-in-time supply chains of US manufacturers, as container ships that should offload in L.A. are stuck in the ports or moored offshore with no one to unpack goods ultimately destined to travel by truck or rail to inland factories and plants.

Because of the strike's potential to damage the economy, calls are becoming more urgent for a resolution of the labor dispute between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (Local 63 Office Clerical) and some of the world’s biggest shipping lines and terminal operators, who have operations at the two ports. The ports account for at least 40 percent of total imported containerized cargo for the United States.

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