By Pafoua Yang

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Window Washers who clean Twin Cities skyscrapers rallied on the corner of 8th Street and Nicollet Avenue in downtown Minneapolis on Monday. Union members are striking for safe jobs and better pay.

Eric Crone works for Columbia Building Services. He has been scaling and cleaning Twin Cities towers for 12 years. He says it’s a job that demands great mobility and safety.

“We go out there every day putting our lives on the line just so these corporate entities can see out their beautiful windows. All we want is a fair wage, some respect and proper training,” said Crone.

“I’ve been in two life and death accidents in City Center,” said Jeffrey Weber, a building maintenance technician with Columbia Building Services. “I swung across the whole atrium, 70 feet and luckily lived through it. I was suspended in that atrium once, six stories off the ground, hanging on my harness. I went out there without proper training and they told us to go anyway.”

On top of the required bravery, some workers were asked to clean inside buildings during the height of the pandemic. Weber said the environment was definitely COVID-19 infected and that half of them contracted the disease.

Weber believes their essential and dangerous duties should earn them more than what they’re currently making, which is about $25 per hour.

Another part of the fight is getting a fully-funded apprenticeship program. The group has been crafting a program for the last couple of years to get state recognition and licensure for training as a requirement to use the equipment.

“The problem is not the equipment itself, it’s people using the equipment without proper training,” Crone explained.

“This, across the board, would bring safety up to the right standard,” Weber added.

Union members first made proposals to companies in December 2019. They say companies attentively agreed on wages, health care costs and apprenticeship programs. However, COVID-19 hit and all parties agreed to postpone negotiations.

“But when we came back from COVID and we gave them the extension on the contract they wanted, they no longer wanted to offer us the same things they’ve attentively agreed before,” Crone said.

Members say the next contract negotiation is Wednesday.

“We’re going to be on strike until we get what we want,” Weber said.

The industry has less than 80 total workers statewide across various companies, three have died in workplace accidents in the last 15 years.

WCCO reached out to Columbia Building Services and Final Touch Commercial Cleaning for a response, we did not hear back. A third company, Apex North, has already agreed to the main principles proposed by the workers. Their employees will continue to work.

Pafoua Yang