Businesses are urging Obama to invoke the Taft-Hartley Act to ensure that 14 U.S. ports remain open.

Unionized dockworkers along the East and Gulf coasts are threatening to begin a 14-port strike this weekend that could choke the flow of goods into the United States and drain billions of dollars from the economy.

Businesses have been sounding the alarm for weeks about the potential strike and are urging President Obama to invoke powers under the Taft-Hartley Act to ensure that the ports remain open.

The White House on Thursday urged the two sides to reach an agreement “as quickly as possible” and said it is monitoring the situation closely.

Industry groups say presidential action is needed because a shutdown of the U.S. Maritime Alliance ports would ripple through the fragile economy.

“It will likely take weeks for the ports as well as trucking and rail services to return to normal operations. Manufacturers can ill afford a strike when they area already facing the burden of the fiscal cliff and so much economic uncertainty,” said Robyn Boerstling, director of transportation and infrastructure policy with the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM).

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