Editorial by Rob Raczka and Mark Negralle
As state employees and union stewards at the beleaguered Connecticut Lottery Corporation, we will be the first to tell you it's extraordinarily difficult to work in an environment described by our colleagues in an internal survey as "fear-based," "toxic" and "North Korea-like."
It angers us that controversy and scandal have tainted our agency and generated a seemingly endless stream of news stories exposing the questionable practices of some senior managers.
It appalls us that former lottery executives sought guidance from the FBI to secretly tape employees, as revealed during a Connecticut Human Rights and Opportunities hearing.
It annoys us that the lottery, which is quasi-public agency, is apparently exempt from reporting concerns to the Office of State Ethics.
It aggravates us that a toxic workplace culture has endured for so many years, with callous disregard for employee morale and utter disrespect respect our public mission.
The tide seems to be turning. Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont is calling for a thorough review of operational practices at the lottery (and another troubled quasi-public agency), while Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano is urging an end to the creation of new quasi-publics.
These calls for legislative scrutiny are overdue — and most certainly welcome by rank-and-file employees like us. We are the ones who get the job done, day in and day out.
You might ask: If the Connecticut Lottery Corporation is embattled in CHRO and other legal nightmares, how are we as an organization still playing?
Thankfully, the 120-plus employees of the Connecticut Lottery Corporation have pushed through the stressful atmosphere to ensure that the citizens of Connecticut have gaming opportunities that are responsible, fun and uphold the highest level of integrity.
It's worth noting that Connecticut has received record-breaking general fund transfers and that the lottery operation has never missed a payment, thanks to a dedicated front-line workforce.
Our agency is infusing sorely needed monies to help fund vital public services in our state. Contributions to the general fund have increased to $370 million in 2019 from $319.5 million in 2014, while total revenues have risen steadily to $1.334 billion in 2019 from $1.1 billion in 2014.
This isn't to say the quasi-public structure created by former Gov. John G. Rowland has worked. It has failed us from the start.
But please don't lump us together with a small number of executives who over the years have put their own selfish interests ahead of the public good while belittling our work, ignoring our collective bargaining agreements and choosing chaos over cohesion.
When our legislative leaders are looking for resolutions to the problems of the quasi-public structure, and the lack of transparency, they won't have to address the efforts or commitment of lottery's rank and file employees.
We recognize our responsibility to the state and fulfill our obligations with integrity and honesty. For what it's worth, our staff handles occupational stress better than any organization should ever expect from their workers. To represent a portion of these people is an honor for us. We take immense pride in being reliable civil servants.
Many of us at the Connecticut Lottery Corporation have endured 25 years of intimidation, harassment and a lack of respect for workplace rights. We urge the governor and legislative leaders to hear our voices and heed our concerns.
Through our unions, we are committed to finding solutions that will restore public trust and confidence in an agency that belongs to the people.
Mark Negralle, a member of the Connecticut Employee Union Independent, and Rob Raczka, a member of AFSCME Local 318, work at the Connecticut Lottery Corporation. Their views reflect their positions as union stewards and not as employees.