This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat.  480A.08, subd. 3 (1994).


STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
C2-96-418

International Association of Fire Fighters
Local 82, Minneapolis,
Appellant,

vs.

City of Minneapolis, et al.,
Respondents.

Filed August 13, 1996
Affirmed
Willis, Judge

Hennepin County District Court
File No. 955645


Marshall H. Tanick, Phillip J. Trobaugh, Mansfield & Tanick, 
P.A., 1560 International Centre, 900 Second Avenue South, 
Minneapolis, MN  55402 (for Appellant)

Surell Brady, Minneapolis City Attorney, Peter W. Ginder, 
Assistant City Attorney, 300 Metropolitan Centre, 333 South 
Seventh Street, Minneapolis, MN  55402 (for Respondents)

	Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge, Davies, 
Judge, and Holtan, Judge.*



U N P U B L I S H E D  O P I N I O N

WILLIS, Judge
	Appellant labor union challenges the district court's order 
denying its motion to enjoin respondent city fire department from 
enforcing a policy allowing only union chair officers to take paid 
time off for union activities.  We affirm.

FACTS

	Appellant International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 
82 (the union), and respondent City of Minneapolis (the City) 
entered into a labor agreement, which provides that grievance and 
arbitration procedures are the sole and exclusive means of 
resolving all grievances "concerning, and limited to, the 
interpretation or application of the provisions of the Agreement."  
The union and the City also signed a letter of agreement that 
modified the labor agreement.  The letter of agreement contained 
the following provision pertaining to time off for union business:
The Employer and the Union shall jointly review and 
revise that certain policy of the Department which 
provides for paid time off for Union business.  
Efforts shall be made by both Parties to reduce the 
need for such time off.  In no event shall such time 
off (cumulative for the chair officers of the Union 
only) exceed three thousand six hundred (3,600) 
hours per calendar year.  The revised policy shall 
include provisions  which address requirements for 
reasonable advance notice and accountability.

The City previously allowed union members to take a "reasonable" 
amount of time off to engage in union activities.
	Without meeting with the union to review and revise the 
time-off policy pursuant to the letter of agreement, respondent fire 
chief Thomas Dickinson implemented a revised policy that 
(1) required the union to request approval 48 hours in advance of 
the requested time off, (2) restricted paid time off to six hours per 
meeting, per individual, (3) restricted to three the number of union 
officers permitted to take time off to attend contract negotiation 
sessions, (4) restricted to three the number of union officers 
permitted to take time off to attend disciplinary hearings and 
grievance proceedings, and (5) permitted a request for time off to 
be made orally, rather than in writing, in emergency situations.  
The union sued the City and Dickinson, claiming they engaged in 
an unfair labor practice under the Public Employment Labor 
Relations Act, Minn. Stat.  179A.01-.30 (1994), by changing the 
fire department's union time-off policy without negotiating the 
changes.  The district court enjoined respondents from enforcing 
the revised policy issued by Dickinson.  
	After the district court's decision, Dickinson continued to 
deny requests from rank and file union members for paid time off 
for union activities.  The union filed a motion in district court to 
enjoin respondents from denying paid time off to rank and file 
union members, arguing that respondents had engaged in an unfair 
labor practice by failing to meet and negotiate before "eliminating" 
paid time off.  Respondents argued that the letter of agreement 
requires paid time off only for the union chair officers.  The district 
court denied the union's motion, concluding that determination of 
the issues raised by the motion required interpretation of the 
language of the letter of agreement; therefore, they must be 
resolved not by the court, but by arbitration as required by the labor 
agreement.

D E C I S I O N

	The supreme court has held that

[t]he issue of arbitrability is to be determined by 
ascertaining the intention of the parties through 
examination of the language of the arbitration 
agreement.  A reviewing court is not bound by the 
trial court's interpretation of the arbitration 
agreement and independently determines whether 
the trial court correctly interpreted the clause.

Michael-Curry Cos. v. Knutson Shareholders Liquidating Trust, 
449 N.W.2d 139, 141 (Minn. 1989) (citation omitted).  Rather than 
reaching the merits of the union's motion for a temporary 
injunction, the district court decided that the dispute was subject to 
arbitration.  Because the district court's order depended on its 
interpretation of the arbitration clause in the parties' labor 
agreement, this court need not defer to the district court's 
conclusion.
	Minnesota has a "strong public policy" favoring resolution 
of labor disputes through arbitration.  Ellerbrock v. Board of 
Educ., 269 N.W.2d 858, 862 (Minn. 1978). The "`underlying 
policy and purpose' of [the Public Employment Labor Relations 
Act] is to discourage litigation and promote simple, informal 
procedures for resolution of conflict."  Minnesota Educ. Ass'n v. 
Independent Sch. Dist. No. 495, 290 N.W.2d 627, 629 (Minn. 
1980).  The failure to arbitrate precludes access to Minnesota 
courts except where an
"employer and union conspire together to defeat the 
rights of an employee or * * * it would be futile for 
the employee to seek redress under the contract."

Ellerbrock, 269 N.W.2d at 862 (quoting Cunningham v. Federal 
Cartridge Corp., 265 Minn. 534, 537, 122 N.W.2d 208, 211 
(1963)).  If an arbitration provision shows that the parties clearly 
intended to arbitrate a controversy "arising out of specific 
provisions of the contract, `the matter is for the arbitrators to 
determine and not the court.'"  Minnesota Educ. Ass'n, 290 
N.W.2d at 629 (quoting Atcas v. Credit Clearing Corp., 292 Minn. 
334, 341, 197 N.W.2d 448, 452 (1972)).  Additionally, 
where the arbitrability of a dispute is subject to 
"reasonable debate," the arbitrator himself is to make 
a determination on the question of arbitrability "in 
the first instance."

Id.
	Section 5.1(A) of the labor agreement in this case provides:
This grievance and arbitration procedure has been 
established to resolve specific disputes which may 
arise between the Parties concerning, and limited to, 
the interpretation or application of the provisions 
of this Agreement.

(Emphasis added.)  Section 5.1(E) of the agreement provides:
The City and the Union mutually agree that the 
grievance and arbitration procedures contained in 
this Agreement are the sole and exclusive means of 
resolving all grievances arising under this 
Agreement.

	The district court held that the following provision is 
susceptible to more than one interpretation: 
The Employer and the Union shall jointly review and 
revise that certain policy of the Department which 
provides for paid time off for Union business.  
Efforts shall be made by both Parties to reduce the 
need for such time off.  In no event shall such time 
off (cumulative for the chair officers of the Union 
only) exceed three thousand six hundred (3,600) 
hours per calendar year.  The revised policy shall 
include provisions  which address requirements for 
reasonable advance notice and accountability.

Respondents assert that the language in parentheses, "cumulative 
for the chair officers of the Union only," requires the city to pay 
only the chair officers for time off for union activities.  The union 
argues, on the other hand, that the letter of agreement restricts the 
number of hours available to chair officers of the union for paid 
time off, without in any way changing the preexisting practice of 
allowing rank and file members to take paid time off for union 
activities.  We hold that the district court correctly concluded that 
the provision is susceptible to more than one interpretation.
	The union argues that the dispute does not center on the 
interpretation of the letter of agreement provision, but rather on 
whether respondents engaged in an unfair labor practice under the 
Public Employment Labor Relations Act (PELRA), Minn. Stat. 
 179A.01-.30 (1994).  The union asserts that respondents 
engaged in an unfair labor practice by changing the policy 
regarding union time off for rank and file union members without 
first negotiating with the union.  See Minn. Stat.  179A.07, subd. 
2(a) ("A public employer has an obligation to meet and negotiate 
in good faith with the exclusive representative of public employees 
* * * regarding * * * the terms and conditions of employment."); 
 179A.13, subd. 2(5) ("Public employers, their agents and 
representatives are prohibited from * * * refusing to meet and 
negotiate in good faith with the exclusive representative of it 
employees."). 
	As a threshold matter, however, the union's PELRA claim 
depends on interpretation of the provision from the letter of 
agreement.  If the provision is interpreted as respondents urge--to 
require paid time off for the union chair officers only--no unfair 
labor practice could exist because the parties met and negotiated 
the terms of the letter of agreement.  If, conversely, the provision is 
interpreted as the union urges--to apply to all union members--the 
union's PELRA claim may be valid.  Because the labor agreement 
requires arbitration of all disputes regarding interpretation of the 
provisions of the agreement and this dispute centers on 
interpretation of a provision of the parties' letter of agreement, the 
district court correctly held that the dispute must be arbitrated.
	The union argues that the supreme court has ruled that an 
arbitration clause in a labor agreement does not preempt the right 
to bring a civil unfair labor practice action under PELRA.  In 
support of its argument, the union cites American Fed'n of State, 
County and Mun. Employees Local 66 v. St. Louis County Bd.of 
Comm'rs, 281 N.W.2d 166 (Minn. 1979).  Local 66, however, 
does not support the union's argument.  In Local 66, the court did 
not decide whether the district court could consider plaintiffs' 
PELRA claim despite the existence of an arbitration clause, as the 
union asserts.  Rather, the court held that because a dispute 
regarding the identity of the plaintiffs' exclusive representative did 
not involve the interpretation or application of any specific 
provision of the parties' labor agreement, the courts, not an 
arbitrator, must decide the dispute.  Id. at 169.
	The union asks this court to consider the merits of its 
PELRA unfair labor practice claim and to grant relief.  Because the 
district court held that the PELRA claim was subject to arbitration, 
the court did not reach the merits of the claim and this court need 
not address it.  See Thiele v. Stich, 425 N.W.2d 580, 582 (Minn. 
1988) ("A reviewing court must generally consider `only those 
issues that the record shows were * * * considered by the trial 
court in deciding the matter before it.'").

	Affirmed.
	
     * Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota 
Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI,  10.