Bowing to concerns of businesses, Mayor Art Agnos of San Francisco has agreed to sign compromise legislation that will double the amount of time businesses have to comply with groundbreaking computer-safety standards.
The changes, worked out during a seven-hour meeting Saturday at City Hall attended by union activists, city officials and business representatives, will give employers four years instead of two to comply fully with requirements for adjustable furniture, proper lighting and anti-glare screens for video display terminal (VDT) workstations.
Agnos said he intends to sign the ordinance, the only one of its kind in the country, on Thursday. The measure was passed last week by the Board of Supervisors.
“We’re delighted we could find some common ground,” he said. “We’ve got . . . something that both sides can take to other cities and say, ‘This is something you should consider.’ ”
Labor leaders, who have sought such legislation for years, have said the ordinance should serve as a model for state or federal initiatives aimed at curbing the rapidly growing number of injuries associated with prolonged VDT use. Workers have complained about vision problems and disabling hand, wrist, arm and neck injuries.
Gov. George Deukmejian vetoed a state measure this year, and a similar law in Suffolk County, N.Y., was overturned by a state judge in late 1989.
The modifications in the San Francisco ordinance reduce but do not eliminate the possibility of a legal challenge, officials said.
The supervisors’ 7-4 passage of the measure on Dec. 17 had put the mayor in the difficult spot of having to choose between unions, which have been political allies, and employers, which have urged the city to take a more pro-business stance and had favored voluntary VDT standards.
Although disappointed that many workers might have to wait longer than hoped to get workstation improvements, one union activist expressed satisfaction that the compromise measure now has the backing of all concerned.
“It’s not entirely what we wanted,” said Joan Moore, with Local 9410 of the Communications Workers of America. “Nonetheless, we are satisfied. We are concerned about the perception that the city and county of San Francisco are anti-business.”
Under the compromise measure, which applies to companies with 15 or more workers, employers face a three-stage implementation. Any new equipment bought one year or more after the bill’s passage must conform to the new standards. Employers have 30 months in which to spend at least $250 to upgrade each VDT workstation. If the cost of upgrading exceeds $250, employers will have an additional 18 months to make the remaining changes.
Since the bill’s introduction in August by Supervisor Nancy Walker, businesses had complained that the legislation would damage San Francisco’s ability to attract businesses. Some small firms had even threatened to move rather than face the cost of buying new furniture and equipment.