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

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“This cannot continue," Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Monday in a stiff missive to both sides. "With thousands of members of other ILWU locals now honoring the picket lines,” the strike is “costing our local economy billions of dollars,” he wrote to the union. “The cost is too great to continue down this failed path,” said Mr. Villaraigosa, who is asking for 'round-the-clock mediation.

Experience shows that the effects of such a strike can be long-lasting. It took retailers about six months to recover from a 10-day lockout of longshoremen at several West Coast ports in 2002, Jonathan Gold, vice president of supply chain and customs policy for the National Retail Foundation, told The Sun newspaper in San Bernardino, Calif.

"This shutdown of the ports doesn't just impact the retail industry," Mr. Gold is quoted as saying. "You've got manufacturers who are operating just-in-time supply chains, and you've got exports that aren't moving because the ports are shut down. We need it to end now because it's going to take some time to clear through the backups."

Ten of 14 cargo-container terminals at the two ports are shut down. (Los Angeles is No. 1 in container traffic and Long Beach is ranked second, according to industry data.) As of Monday, nine ships are in dock unattended, 11 more are moored offshore, and at least three have been diverted to other ports. Others inbound from Asia are biding their time.

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