-Staff and Journal Register News Service reportsLawsuit County reaches settlement in corrections officers' suit
Lawsuit alleged guards forced to work overtime without pay.
The county announced Thursday it had agreed to pay $1.25 million as part of a settlement deal in a class-action lawsuit involving more than 200 Chester County Prison corrections officers.
The suit, originally filed in August with three plaintiffs listed, alleged the county violated labor laws by regularly requiring corrections officers at the prison to work more than 40 hours a week without compensation.
The case was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
As part of the settlement - which a federal judge approved on June 23, ending the possibility the case would go to trial - the county admits no violation of the law.
"However, in the interest of maintaining the goodwill of the prison's valued employees and preserving the high level of service at the prison, the parties engaged in negotiations that led to a settlement agreement," according to the joint statement released by county spokeswoman Evelyn Walker. "Both sides are pleased to have resolved the matter and preserved a positive working relationship."
The attorney for the plaintiffs, Martin J. Sobol, did not immediately return a call for additional comment Thursday afternoon.
According to court documents, more than $509,000 of the sum paid by the county will go toward paying the "fair and reasonable attorney's fees and litigation expense occurred."
For the plaintiffs, settlement calls for each to be reimbursed for 1.5 hours of work per week at an overtime rate of $22.50 for every week they worked between March 1, 2006, and Feb. 29, 2008.
The settlement to individual plaintiffs is capped at $3,510. The three plaintiffs who filed the lawsuit, Jessica Ayres, Tanya Deaver and Aaron Salisbury, were awarded an additional $2,500.
A history in pictures in Coatesville
Vintage photos of Lukens Steel Co. to be featured at Coatesville summertime tradition.
Steel manufactured at the old Lukens Steel Co. has traveled the world.
It has reinforced a dam in India, served as support beams for the World Trade Centers in New York and been forged into the deep-sea submersible that traveled to the bottom of the North Atlantic and located the wreckage of the Titanic.
On Saturday, visitors had a chance to see evidence of the mark Lukens left on the world in two displays of historic photographs collected by Graystone Society and on display as part of the 11th Annual Victorian Ice Cream Festival.
The collections total about 100 pictures dating back to the 1950s. One focuses on the people who used to make their living working at the plant off First Avenue, and the other shows the process the plant used and the products it produced.
Huston and Eugene DiOrio, Graystone's vice president, said Wednesday they sorted through 3,000 photos to put the displays together.
DiOrio said looking through the pictures and seeing former colleagues "naturally brought back a lot of memories."
They said the majority of the photos were well preserved and included captions that allowed Huston and DiOrio to easily identify them.
Two staff photographers Lukens employed snapped nearly all the pictures Graystone now owns. DiOrio said one of the photographers was responsible for taking public relations pictures and the other handled product shots the company used in advertisements and trade journals.
Among Huston's favorites is a photo of elephants being used in India to haul the company's heavy steel in place for a dam.
Huston is a descendant of the founding family of Lukens Steel. Only one picture on display Saturday shows any of his relatives. It has his grandfather, Charles Lukens Huston Jr., posing with President Dwight Eisenhower in 1960 as he presented the president with a declaration in honor of Lukens Steel's 150th anniversary.
The Victorian Ice Cream Festival was held Saturday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. on the grounds of the Lukens National Historic District.
In addition to the photographs, the summertime tradition featured its usual abundance of ice cream flavors, as well as a display of vintage cars from the Chester County Antique Car Club, pony rides, face painters, and music by the Lukens German Band and the Lukens Steel Band.
Immediately following the ice cream festival, the city held its Ninth Annual Summer Concert and Fireworks Display.
Wal-Mart World's largest retailer buying locally
Wal-Mart is beefing up purchases of local fresh fruits and vegetables to sell at its Supercenters this summer as corn, tomatoes and 20 other fruits and vegetables come ripe in Pennsylvania between now and late fall.
Chester County has a single Supercenter, in West Sadsbury. Supercenters are those Wal-Marts, usually even bigger than a standard-size store, with a grocery store front and center as customers walk in the door.
In the fresh produce section of the store, Wal-Mart now sells fresh foods from local farmers as part of its effort to buy more and more fresh produce from local purveyors.
The world's largest retailer, the Bentonville, Ark., company is now the self-described largest buyer of locally grown fruits and vegetables, according to spokeswoman Ashley Hardie.
In 2008, the company expects to purchase and sell $400 million worth of produce grown by local farmers nationwide. In Pennsylvania, it will buy fresh stuff from apples to zucchini from local growers - including cilantro, endive and lettuce in between.
Studies show that buying and selling local - a tactic long followed by Whole Foods, Wegmans and, of course, farmers' markets - curbs transportation mileage while also assuring customers, amid growing recalls of fresh produce, where that cuke or bunch of beets actually came from.
A recent salmonella outbreak linked to fresh tomatoes sickened at least 1,000 people nationwide and added fuel to the "Grow Local" movement.
"Wal-Mart is not the first" to buy local, said Rich Pirog, associate director of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University. "But it's obviously, without question, the largest retailer to go down this route."
For instance, Wal-Mart once bought peaches from just a few suppliers. Now, the company buys 12 million pounds of peaches each year from farmers in 18 states, including some in Pennsylvania beginning later this month through the end of September.
Wal-Mart economists believe that by buying local produce - something it started two years ago - the company saves about 100,000 gallons of diesel fuel a year and cuts 672,000 food miles-the distance fresh food travels from farm to fork. That adds up to annual savings of $1.4 million a year, said company spokeswoman Deisha Gal-berth.
The move toward locally grown produce comes as Wal-Mart continues its marketing campaign-like so many other corporations in lock-step, these days - highlighting its environmentally focused practices.
Wal-Mart would not name its local suppliers, nor would it disclose what percentage locally grown produce represents among all the produce the company buys each year.