The coronavirus pandemic sparked the idea of “essential workers”—those whose jobs were so crucial to the ongoing functioning of the economy and of our collective well-being that they were exempt from quarantine rules. Sadly, essential workers—like the custodians who ensure that work spaces are regularly cleaned and maintained—have also long been exempted from equitable pay, a strong enforcement of health and safety standards, and the dignity they deserve. Disproportionately low-income immigrants and people of color, custodial workers’ rights are a matter of racial justice, as Evalynn Romano, the daughter of University of Washington custodians, outlines in her analysis. This photo essay captures the hard work and dignity of UW custodians.
Evalynn Fae Taganna Romano
is a proud daughter of University of Washington (UW) custodians, a public health researcher serving communities of color, a mental health clinician for survivors of violence and traumatic loss, and a strong advocate for custodial worker rights. Since the pandemic began, she has served, collaborated with, and advocated for custodians at UW, bringing attention to the inequities they face through photography-based storytelling. Evalynn enjoys drinking coffee, going on hikes, bouldering, and community organizing. Evalynn is based in Seattle and speaks Tagalog, Waray-Waray, Khmer, and English. She can be reached at: www.uwcustodianproject.com
is currently the racial justice editor at YES! Media and a writing fellow with Independent Media Institute. She was previously a weekly columnist for Truthdig.com. She is also the host and creator of Rising Up with Sonali, a nationally syndicated television and radio program airing on Free Speech TV and dozens of independent and community radio stations. Sonali won First Place at the Los Angeles Press Club Annual Awards for Best Election Commentary in 2016. She also won numerous awards including Best TV Anchor from the LA Press Club and has also been nominated as Best Radio Anchor 4 years in a row. She is the author of Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords, and the Propaganda of Silence, and the co-director of the nonprofit group, Afghan Women's Mission. She has a Master’s in Astronomy from the University of Hawai’i, and two undergraduate degrees in Physics and Astronomy from the University of Texas at Austin. She reflects on her professional path in her 2014 TEDx talk, “My Journey From Astrophysicist to Radio Host.” She can be reached at sonalikolhatkar.com