I am overjoyed that essential workers like grocery employees will finally get their long-deserved shot at immunity starting March 22. But I was disheartened that custodians were absent from the list of workers considered essential. My mother — a custodian for more than 31 years — wakes every day at 3 a.m. to make sure the buildings she cares for are clean. This work has always been demanding (and gratifying). But now the increased complexity of infection-control practices, the inherent risks and physical demands have made that work even more so.
The dedication she and her colleagues have shown every day for the past year breathes new meaning into the phrase “cleanliness is next to godliness.” If that is not essential work, I don’t know what is. My mother and many of her colleagues are immigrants and refugees who play a vital role in our community’s health, yet they continue to be overlooked in this pandemic. What does this say about how our society values custodians’ lives, families and work? All custodians should be deemed vaccine eligible on March 22, and employers should provide flexibility and paid time off so they actually have a chance of securing an appointment.
Evalynn Fae Taganna Romano, Seattle