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West Coast Port Labor Dispute Bad For Bay Area Businesses; Obama Stepping In

OAKLAND (KPIX 5) -- President Obama is stepping in to address the slowdown at west coast ports caused by a labor dispute.

It's left many businesses reeling and now, the President plans to send Secretary of Labor Tom Perez to California to encourage both sides of the bargaining table to strike a deal.

Local businesses are crossing their fingers that something will give.

In San Francisco and all over the Bay Area, there are businesses with goods and products essentially stuck in limbo at the port of Oakland, one of the 29 west coast ports involved in this dispute. Some say a huge part of the nation's economy depends it getting resolved.

Fine wine from around the globe lines the shelves of The Jug Shop. Store manager Eric Cripe says inventory for some of those wines is dwindling because many new orders are stuck at the Port of Oakland.

"It's been difficult. And customers don't exactly understand it's on the water but we can't get a hold of it," said Cripe. It's costing him business.

"They'll just walk out. I mean, we've built some core brands here over the years and people expect to be able to walk in and grab that brand," he said. "It's unfortunately just not available to us."

It's not just the mom and pop shops. Megatoys in Los Angeles is one of the country's biggest suppliers of Easter baskets. CEO Charlie Woo says he can't fill of his orders in time.

"A lot of the stuff that was supposed to be here by mid-January, now the shipping companies are telling me they won't get here until early March," said Woo. "That would be too late -- those products will be useless to me when they arrive."

As President Obama is set to address the labor dispute between the shippers association and unions representing dock workers, some believe the nation's economy is at stake and will take a $2-billion hit each day if the dispute becomes a full-blown strike.

Economist Christopher Thornberg disagrees.

"That's total nonsense, to be candid," he said. "It isn't to say that there aren't some individuals, some companies that are being hurt by this."

Whatever the end result, local business owners say they want a deal sooner rather than later.

"I'm a liberal San Franciscan--I support labor," said Cripe. "But at the same time, it hurts small businesses so it's a bummer."

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