|Deb, with supporters at a rally for her.|
Debbie Wieloch, a Local 23 member who has been a Giant Eagle employee for 36 years, was cleared of all charges last week.
Wieloch was arrested in September for talking to her coworkers while they were on break at the Waterfront Giant Eagle, about trying to bring workers from the non-union stores owned by Giant Eagle into UFCW, so they could enjoy the same opportunities and benefits as their union brothers and sisters. The manager called the police on her and had her arrested for trespassing
and put in jail.
"I feel vindicated," Debbie Wieloch said after being cleared of all charges Tuesday:
It tells me Giant Eagle knew they were wrong and did that to silence me, and they had no right to do that.
District Judge Thomas Torkowsky found Wieloch not guilty at her preliminary hearing on last week. Before the hearing started, Wieloch said:
I do believe that I have the right to discuss union matters with union employees on my own time, as long as I am not pulling them off of their job. I was very careful not to do that. Everyone I spoke to was on a break or lunch...I have a right to discuss our contract. I'm very knowledgeable about it. I helped write it. So I have every right to go to the stores and talk to people about it, and Giant Eagle walked all over my rights.
Wieloch reached out to her fellow workers in the Waterfront store's cafe area -- a public area -- and not in the store aisles.
United Food and Commercial Workers Local 23 filed charges of unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board after the incident at the Waterfront Giant Eagle.