For the first time, Minneapolis will require safety training for high-rise window washers — those workers hanging from dizzying heights to make a skyline shine.

On Tuesday, Mayor Jacob Frey signed the city's first window-cleaning ordinance to the cheers of workers inside a union hall in northeast Minneapolis.

Starting Jan. 1, 2025, all window washers working higher than 24 feet without a ladder, unionized or not, will have to earn a certificate after training in equipment safety, first aid and crisis management.

While there are federal workplace safety rules for scaffolds and other tools of the trade, there are no regulations specific to window washers. Minnesota will soon adopt new rules on window-washing safety.

Why now?

The ordinance was spawned by Local 26 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). About a year and a half ago, union members worked with Council Member Michael Rainville, who represents part of downtown, and with city staff to draft regulations modeled on those in New York City, Rainville and union officials said.

The union had sought such an ordinance for two decades. A string of deaths rattled the small network of local window washers, culminating with the 2007 death of Fidel Sanchez-Flores. The former Marine was removing snow and ice from the IDS Center's Crystal Court when a window broke and he fell to his death.

The deaths prompted SEIU to emphasize safety in its contract negotiations. In 2010, they succeeded in creating a state-registered apprentice program. In 2021, workers struck, demanding higher wages and a more robust safety training regimen, which they ultimately got. Minneapolis' ordinance codifies those training requirements and applies them to all window washers in the city.

How many window washers?

About 45 unionized window washers are employed by three companies in the metro: Columbia Building Services, Final Touch and Apex North. SEIU officials estimate about an equal number of nonunion window washers working at any given time are employed by several other companies or start their own firms.

Is it a good job?

Under the union's current contract, entry-level apprentice window washers earn a minimum of $19 an hour, while journeymen receive an hourly minimum of $29.38.

Eric Crone, a high-rise window washer for Columbia who's been on the job 15 years, said the work has its ups and downs.

His favorite part?

"Definitely the views and getting up early to see them. People who work downtown, they always want the corner office with the view, but my view is better than theirs every day."

And his least favorite?

"Winds in excess of 25 miles per hour means we can't work. And the wildlife up there sometimes. … I've seen a guy get his head split open by a dive-bombing peregrine falcon."

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated when the ordinance would take effect. It will take effect Jan. 1, 2025.