Point Park University's Student-Run Newspaper

Point Park Globe

Point Park University's Student-Run Newspaper

Point Park Globe

Point Park University's Student-Run Newspaper

Point Park Globe

University hosts spelling bee sponsored by the Post-Gazette

Photo by Cassandra Harris
Members of local unions gather for a photo during the Post-Gazette workers one-year mark on strike in October of last year.

Note: Ed Blazina is a Point Park class of 1978 alum and wrote for The Globe. His voice is essential to this story.


This past Sunday, the Pittsburgh Playhouse hosted the Western PA Spelling Bee, sponsored by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PG).


Dean of Students Keith Paylo helped put together the event. He said the PG reached out to the university about hosting the event, informing him that they have also held the spelling bee at other local universities before. 16 selected students from 16 different schools throughout the region and neighboring counties met to compete. 


“It was a great event and experience for the students; I was just blown away with their talent,” Paylo said. “It’s not my concentration to support these young students, but it was a great experience.”


Before their closure in 1992, the Pittsburgh Press hosted the spelling bee. After they closed due to a worker’s strike, the PG took on the responsibility of inheriting the event.


Yet workers at the PG have been on strike since Oct. 18, 2022, after guild members at the PG authorized a strike for unfair labor practice. At the time, the newly striking writers would join already striking PG workers who were already on the picket line. 


The workers are fighting to rescind illegally imposed unilateral working conditions. Put simply, work benefits were taken from the workers without consulting them beforehand. They are fighting to restore the previously agreed on terms of their 2014-17 collective bargaining agreement, return to the table to bargain in good faith for a successor agreement or the terms of their previous contract and restore health care coverage for press, production and advertising workers throughout this past year.


Paylo did not provide further comment on the university’s relationship with the Post-Gazette. 


Ed Blazina, a transportation reporter on strike, said the university hosting the spelling bee is “not a good look.”


“Events like the spelling bee is not a good look for the PG or Point Park,” Blazina said. “Bringing people in from all across the state, it’s just more advertising for the PG and continues to prolong the strike.”


Blazina said there are currently no negotiations scheduled between the strike workers and the company. The two parties have been at a standstill since last year, when the PG company decided not to commit to a new health plan presented by the striking workers, despite it being cheaper than the original. 


“It is important to show any employer that they cannot treat us like crap,” Blazina said. “I would hope the [Point Park] faculty teach students better [than to scab] and make students aware of union benefits…this spelling bee is another great reminder of the importance of this strike and to not cross picket lines.”


Eduard Garcia, a sophomore electrical engineering student from Barcelona, Spain supports the school and their decision to allow the PG to host the spelling bee. He said that in his time at Point Park, the school has supported him and has done everything for him, so he feels like he needs to defend it.


“I understand the [striking] workers, but it’s good to expand the name of Point Park,” Garcia said. “It can help the university to grow a lot of interest and students as well.”


He thinks that people being on strike is sad but after going on for so long, there is only so much that people can do to fix the problem. He compared the ongoing strike to the war in Ukraine. 


“That’s something that happens with [time]; we don’t see news about Ukraine anymore,” Garcia said. “As you’re moving on you kind of get used to it, even though it’s a bad thing.”


Garcia does not read the PG but focuses more on international news online.


Marion Dixon, an associate professor in the department of literature, culture and society and chair of the full-time faculty committee, said when the faculty learned about the spelling bee, they sent formal letters to the university administration to cancel the event.


The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh represents the Post-Gazette union, as well as the university’s full-time faculty.


“[The spelling bee] is not the first conflict since the strike began,” Dixon said. “The university has continually shown their support, and it is not okay.”


Ilijana Hasak, a sophomore acting major with a minor in tech design, said that they grew up reading the PG and was disappointed with the school crossing the picket lines. 


“You can’t ignore it and move on,” Hasak said. “But that’s exactly what’s happening.” 


According to Hasak, ignoring the strike and acting like it’s going to go away will not actually make it go away or fix the root of the problem


“It feels so purposeful to do something weird like a spelling bee to take the attention away from what’s really going on,” Hasak said.


Back in February, the university hosted a panel of journalists at the Center for Media Innovation (CMI), which included an opinions editor for the Post-Gazette that was hired during the strike.


The Post-Gazette has continued publishing throughout the worker’s strike, replacing reporters’ positions in several sectors like education, government and sports. To encourage readers to stop turning to the PG for their news, the remaining striking workers have created their own online publication called the Pittsburgh Union Progress.


The Post-Gazette has been involved in lawsuits regarding layoffs in 2018 as well. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the paper on Sept. 26. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) had found that the Post-Gazette illegally dismissed two paper handlers after the expiration of their labor agreement in 2017. The court also ordered the NLRB board to review whether the newspaper had bargained adequately with the union over the company’s plans to switch to a digital format, which prompted the two layoffs.


Established in 1925, the Scripps National Spelling Bee has been held every year except during WWII from 1943-45 and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Point Park Globe Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *