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Federal mediators trying to avoid a shipping shutdown along the gulf and east coast ports have called for union and shipping companies to meet.

Workers have until Saturday before the dockworkers' contract extension expires. If a deal is not reached, then thousands of dockworkers from Massachusetts to Texas will walkout.

Talks broke down last week, the key sticking point coming down to container royalties and payments to union workers based on cargo weight.

Port operators want to cap royalties.

Retailers fear another strike could have catastrophic effects and are asking President Barack Obama to intervene.

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