The ports along the nation's West Coast are still open, but one researcher who's studied them says that obstacles like labor walkouts are threatening their ability to stay in business more than a decade after a devastating dock workers' strike in 2002.
"They can't stand another disruption regardless of management or labor," said John Martin, founder of Martin Associates, an economic research firm for transportation systems.
And it's not only the ports themselves that will get hit by a strike, said Tony Cherin, a financial markets professor at San Diego State University.
"Wholesalers, retailers and consumers will see prices go up if trucks aren't leaving the ports," he said. "The impact will be greater the longer a strike goes on."