CONTRA COSTA COUNTY, Calif. (BCN) — West Contra Costa Unified and its teacher’s union, United Teachers of Richmond, will participate in a fact-finding hearing on Feb. 16, potentially leading to a strike the first week of March.

The fact-finding follows months of contract negotiations, including bargaining sessions with a third-party mediator after the district declared an impasse in December. At the hearing, both bargaining teams will present to a fact-finding panel, consisting of one person appointed by the union, another by the district and a state-appointed “neutral,” said United Teachers of Richmond President John Zabala. The neutral member will produce a nonbinding report from facts presented at the hearing, with recommendations for a settlement.

United Teachers of Richmond’s bargaining team must consider that report and the fact-finder’s recommended settlement. After that, the bargaining team can set a date for the strike. The union already held a strike authorization vote in December, with more than 90% of United Teachers of Richmond’s membership participating and 97.3% voting in favor of a strike.

Zabala said the soonest the union could legally go on strike would be the first week of March, though he hopes the parties can reach a settlement before it comes to that.

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