Maine News: Bangor Daily News Voluntarily Recognizes News Staff Union / by Andy O’Brien

Photo Credit: NCM

The parent company of the Bangor Daily News agreed last Friday to recognize a new union that will represent more than 30 newsroom members.

The unionization effort went public last week, when a group of BDN employees announced its intention to organize as part of the News Guild of Maine, Local 31128 of the Communications Workers of America. The new bargaining unit will cover reporters, digital editors, photographers, editorial page writers and staff at the BDN and weeklies in Penobscot, Aroostook and Piscataquis counties.

“While we prefer to work with employees directly, we have lots to talk about with the News Guild as it forms its unit here,” BDN President Todd Benoit wrote in an email to staff. “I look forward to hearing new ideas about ways to navigate the difficult paths that all news media must travel these days.

BDN news staff fired off a series of celebratory tweets.

“I’m so proud of my colleagues for all their hard work that lead to this moment,” tweeted BDN news desk editor Chris Burns, who is also a member of the Industrial Workers of the World. “We won this through the sheer force of our overwhelming support and solidarity. We’ll take the win today, because the real work has just begun.”

The staff say their priorities in a new contract include improving working conditions, pay equity, fair reimbursement and benefit policies, and work schedules that reflect the actual time and effort they put into their jobs.

“It’s been such a joy to experience the camaraderie inside the @bangordailynews newsroom as we rallied around our love of the paper, the job we do and the mission we serve,” BDN reporter Callie Ferguson tweeted, “and it’s heartening to see management recognize that so quickly. Please celebrate us by sending [news] tips.”

“Today would be a good day to subscribe to the BDN,” tweeted BDN Lia Russell.

We echo that sentiment and encourage you to support our fellow union brothers in the News Guild of Maine by subscribing at the Bangor Daily NewsPortland Press Herald/Maine Sunday TelegramMorning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal. By doing so, you not only support union jobs, but help sustain local news reporting at a very challenging time for the news industry.

Andy O’Brien handles internal and external communications at Maine AFL-CIO.

Originally published in the Maine AFL-CIO Weekly Update, May 12, 2022,

Maine News: Joining wave of organized newsrooms, BDN journalists look to unionize / by Dan Neumann

Photo: Yevgen Romanenko, Getty Images

The newsroom staff of the Bangor Daily News and other Bangor Publishing Company newspapers announced on Wednesday that they had shared with management their plans to unionize.

Organizers said an overwhelming majority of eligible staff have signed cards declaring their desire to join the News Guild of Maine, Local 31128 of The NewsGuild-Communications Workers of America.

“It started last fall as a conversation about working conditions and a more equitable pay structure,” said BDN photojournalist Troy Bennett, one of the organizers. “It has not been a hard sell for people. We have close to 90% support on our document that we delivered to management this morning.” 

The union would represent about 30 BDN journalists, digital editors, page designers, photographers and editorial page writers, including staff at the Bangor Publishing Company’s other local news sites, St. John Valley TimesFiddlehead FocusThe CountyPiscataquis ObserverAroostook RepublicanHoulton Pioneer TimesPresque Isle Star-Herald and the Penobscot Times

Bennett explained that increasingly insufficient staffing levels has led to high staff turnover at the state’s only independently owned daily newspaper. 

“Especially in the last few years, it’s been a revolving door,” he said. “The working conditions are tough. So people are immediately looking for greener pastures as soon as they get here.”

Bennett said that newsroom staff want a seat at the table to fix the problem. 

“We’re just being made to work faster, faster, faster,” he said. “We’ve been asked to do more with less for so long, we assume they’re going to ask us to do everything with nothing,” he said, adding, “Why don’t we have a seat at the table and a say in our own future?” 

BDN political reporter Jessica Piper echoed Bennett’s concerns. “In the bit more than two years that I’ve been with the BDN, I’ve seen many smart, caring reporters come and go,” she said in a statement issued by the organizers. “For the newspaper to thrive, we need talented staff to stay.”

BDN journalists’ push to unionize is just the latest swell in a wave of media professionals getting organized that began in 2015. Since then, journalists or tech support staff at the New York TimesPoliticoThe AtlanticKansas City Star and Los Angeles Daily News, among other newspapers, digital outlets and broadcast stations, have all successfully certified their unions, some voluntarily recognized by management and others proceeding with elections overseen by the National Labor Relations Board. 

The ongoing wave of media unions has been a source of optimism for workers and advocates who are hopeful that the country is witnessing a renewal of the labor movement, as demonstrated most recently by Starbucks and Amazon workers unionizing previously unorganized sectors of the U.S. economy.

In Maine, Maine Medical Center nurses and Portland Museum of Art workers won union elections in 2021 amid opposition from management. Preble Street workers won big pay raises in their new contract signed in April. 

BDN staff are hoping that management voluntarily recognizes the union, making a union election unnecessary. Organizers and supporters are sharing a petition asking management to recognize the union.

Bennett said management has not formally responded. “They were accepted cordially and said they’d be in touch,” he said.

Dan Neumann studied journalism at Colorado State University before beginning his career as a community newspaper reporter in Denver. He reported on the Global North’s interventions in Africa, including documentaries on climate change, international asylum policy and U.S. militarization on the continent before returning to his home state of Illinois to teach community journalism on Chicago’s West Side. He now lives in Portland. Dan can be reached at