Governor Rick Scott on Thursday warned of dire economic consequences if the International Longshoreman's Association went on strike at 15 East Coast and Gulf Coast ports, including four in Florida.
Nationwide, members have said they would walk off the job on Saturday if a new labor agreement with the United States Maritime Alliance had not been reached.
"The livelihoods of thousands of Florida families hang in the balance if they do not reach an agreement by Saturday," Scott told reporters by telephone. "If a strike or a lockout occurs at that time, Florida's largest ports could be shut down, sending shock waves through jobs all across our state – including truck driver jobs, manufacturing jobs, warehousing jobs – and many jobs beyond the ports themselves. A shut down of Florida ports is simply not an option for Florida families."
Last week, Scott asked President Barack Obama to invoke the Taft-Hartley Act to prevent a possible work stoppage that could shut down ports if no agreement is reached between the two groups before the contract expires Saturday.
Former President George W. Bush invoked the Taft-Hartly Act in 2002 to end a shutdown on the West Coast that disrupted supply chains nationwide and cost an estimated $1 billion a day.
Florida port leaders have said a strike -- this time -- would be even worse than the West Coast strike; the state would see an economic loss of more than $1 billion every day, they said.
At Florida seaports, cargo-related activity generated more than 550,000 direct and indirect jobs and contributed approximately $66 billion in economic value to the economy, Scott said.
Thursday afternoon, some Democrats said Scott should shift his focus away from the possible strike.
"We hope that the governor now turns his attention to other critical family needs in Florida," said Rep. Perry Thurston (D-Plantation). "President Obama will determine what is best regarding the looming strike at the nation's East Coast ports. Governor Scott can turn his attention to Florida and begin correcting all that he has managed to dismantle."
Some state officials warned a strike -- together with the nation going over the "fiscal cliff" -- could give the economy "a knock-out punch" and fuel recession worries because some imported goods such as clothes, shoes and automotive parts, for example, would be stalled off the coast.
Port Miami, Port Everglades, the Port of Tampa and JAXPORT were among the ports that were expected to be impacted if workers went on strike.
Follow Alex Sanz on Facebook and Twitter.