In a letter sent Dec. 17 to President Barack Obama, the National Retail Federation (NRF) raised concerns about a possible strike at the East and Gulf coast ports if the International Longshoremen's Association (ILA) and the United States Maritime Alliance Ltd. (USMX) don't reach a new labor agreement by the time the current contract expires on Dec. 29.

The two parties have been trying to reach an agreement with the help of a federal mediator. The most recent negotiations ended Dec. 12, and "the threat of a strike is escalating" despite the mediator's efforts, NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay wrote to Obama.

"A strike of any kind at ports along the East and Gulf Coast could prove devastating to the U.S. economy," Shay's letter stated. "We call upon you to use all means necessary, including Taft-Hartley, to keep the two sides at the negotiating table."

The NRF's concerns prompted this week's poll question on ProgressiveRailroading.com, which asks whether you believe the two parties will reach an agreement before Dec. 29. You can read more about the NRF's letter here, and participate in the poll by clicking here.

What do you think about the ILA-USMX situation? Should Obama get involved or let the two sides figure it out for themselves? What would a strike mean for U.S. freight railroads? And what does this story say about the state of labor?

Please consider sharing your thoughts in a post.