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Window washers who are willing to brave the elements, including heat, rain and gusts of wind, while standing on a narrow platform suspended from the side of a skyscraper, can potentially earn higher salaries than other maintenance and cleaning works, but this is not always the case. Unionized window washers who specialize in high-rise buildings tend to earn higher salaries, while nonunion workers earn slightly higher wages than other maintenance workers.
A 2008 article by Manuel Torino in the "New York Daily News" reported that high-rise window washers who work for a union earn on average roughly $50,000 a year, and some earn benefits including health insurance.The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) reported in May 2010 that the average building cleaner earns an average of $11.81 per hour, or $24,560 per year, thus unionized workers in this industry earn well above average pay for this type of work.
"The Washington Post," in an April 2007 article by Joe Heim, stated that nonunion window washers who specialize in cleaning skyscraper buildings earn on average $15 to $16 per hour. In other words, they earn between 27 percent and 35 percent higher wages than other building cleaners and janitors earn on average.
Washing windows of high-rise buildings can be risky, but it is generally considered unskilled labor, so pay does not increase significantly with experience. However, there may be room for advancement into a supervisory position. According to the BLS, the average pay range for supervisors in this field is between $12.82 and $21.07 per hour as of May 2010.
Industry and Safety Standards
"The Washington Post" reported in the 2007 article Hangin' With a High-Rise Window Washer that washing windows on high-rise buildings can be extremely risky, and many employers avoid or ignore basic safety measures as well as take advantage of undocumented workers who are unlikely to complain about standards and pay. Undocumented workers in this industry are paid under the table and likely earn much less per hour than documented workers, though exact numbers are unavailable.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics: Building Cleaning Workers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics: Janitors and Cleaners, Except Maids and Housekeeping Cleaners
- The Washington Post: Hangin' With a High-Rise Window Washer; Joe Heim; April 2007
- New York Daily News: Skyscraper Window Washers Take a Walk in the Clouds; Manuel J. Torino; August 2008
Donald Harder has been writing financial-related articles since 2000 when he founded the firm Securities Research Services. He has worked as a speech writer for the U.S. Department of Justice and written white papers and studies for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Harder holds a Master of Arts in international affairs from George Washington University.