Thanks Harry
Thanks Harry

Thanks Harry

January 1 st 1998

After more than 24 years as WRF's Research Director, Harry Antonides has left an indelible mark on his readers, colleagues, this organization, and his many friends. At the end of 1997, Harry officially retired.

His departure from WRF as its Research Director and editor of this quarterly newsletter coincides with his retirement from the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) after 35 years of dedicated service with that organization.

Principled approach

As a young man, Harry worked in a number of "blue-collar" positions. Following a brief stint in construction, he landed his first full-time job at Dow Chemical in Sarnia, Ontario where he worked in the maintenance department. His opposition to the ideology of the union that represented the employees of Dow at that time prevented him from joining. Harry's conscientious objection to signing up with the union, though it prevented him from advancing beyond the rank of an apprentice (only signed-up union members were permitted to become ticketed journeymen), was indicative of the principled approach to real life situations that marked Harry's career throughout.

It was also in Sarnia that Harry became involved with CLAC. He served on the local board, contributed articles to The Guide (CLAC's official magazine), and generally worked to support the cause of establishing an independent Christian labour organization.

In 1962, Harry was hired as CLAC's second full-time representative working out of the Toronto office. Much of the effort at that time was devoted to strengthening support and preparing for a court challenge of the Ontario Labour Relations Board's refusal to certify CLAC as a union, because it based its program on biblical social principles. Mr. Justice McRuer's favourable decision granted CLAC official status as a trade union and opened opportunities across Canada.

To develop those opportunities in the West, Harry and his growing family moved to Vancouver in 1964 where he represented groups across B.C. and Alberta. He was a true pioneer as he and his early colleagues struggled for recognition and began the work of translating theory into practice. Through tireless efforts, perseverance, and sheer determination fortified by a deep conviction that what they were doing was a biblical response to God's call for obedience, they were able to establish groups of members across the country.

Leadership and discernment

Having recognized his analytical and writing skills, and having determined the need to do focussed research, it was decided in the early 1970s that Harry would head up CLAC's research and education department, based in Toronto. These were heady times. The Christian community was not insulated from the social and political upheaval that was occurring then. During this period, Harry showed tremendous leadership as he correctly discerned the humanistic, secular basis on which much radical change was promoted, also among Christians seeking to influence society.

In 1974, he participated in getting WRF off the ground as an independent research vehicle. At that time, he was appointed as its research director and served as the editor of its quarterly newsletter, WRF Comment. Over the years, many readers became acquainted with Harry, not only through his many verbal presentations across the country, but also through the hundreds of articles he has written in this paper as well as others.

The establishment of WRF as a bipartite organization is a concrete expression of the ideas Harry promoted. Through his work for WRF, he gained support from business leaders who also embraced a principled, distinctly Christian approach to industrial relations issues.

Harry's admonitions to both labour and management are aptly summed up in his recent review of the book Creating Labour-Management Partnerships. In this review, Harry notes, "An indispensable requirement is a radical change in attitude on the part of labour as well as management. Management must be willing to share responsibility and to delegate authority; unions must be willing to assume such responsibility." This message Harry consistently delivered to both sides, long before others "discovered" the truth of this position.

In the course of his career, he wrote three substantive books: Multinationals and The Peaceable Kingdom, Renewal in the Workplace, and Stones For Bread. He is currently working on a fourth book which examines the current state of industrial relations in Canada. Stones for Bread, which traces both the roots and contemporary fruit of the social gospel movement in Canada, is an excellent example of the analysis Harry is respected for. The chapter on liberation theology was translated into Spanish and distributed extensively throughout Latin America.

At a recent retirement celebration, several speakers spoke of the contribution Harry has made to developing a Christian mind, capable of engaging ideas and issues in the public arena, particularly in the area of industrial relations. A1 Wolters, a professor at Redeemer College, commended Harry on his scholarly ability, noting that the quality of his work often exceeded that of many others in academia. In fact, Harry was recently awarded an honorary doctoral degree from the John Calvin Seminary in Mexico in recognition of his work in developing practical applications of Christian principles to everyday life.

Others also spoke eloquently at the retirement celebration about Harry's ability to communicate a clear Christian perspective in a field that is rife with relativistic, pragmatic, and power-oriented positions. Clearly, his work affected many.

Faith and humility

Many also noted Harry's warm, humble personality. I first met Harry while I was studying economics at York University. I went to hear him speak on the economy and was impressed by his analysis. He addressed the issues of that day in a refreshing and thought-provoking manner. Through the years, he continued to make his impression felt as he provided direction-setting guidance and leadership.

In his writings, but particularly in one-on-one discussions, Harry's faith in his Creator shone through. It was this faith and God's grace that enabled Harry to do the work he has done. During a recent interview with Harry, he discussed some of the highlights of his career. He also spelled out some of the key issues facing both workers and society as a whole as we close out this century. He commented on the dignity we have because of our created reality.

In answering a question about what he saw as major trends for the future, he said, "I would say that the uniqueness of the Christian approach is the emphasis on human beings as people endowed with responsibility, a God given dignity. Humanists talk a lot about dignity, but they don't really understand dignity because they think dignity is something innate. But dignity is something that is given to them; it is part of being created in the image of God. I think that starting point can provide for an organization like this a basis on which it can be a voice restoring some true understanding of the meaning of work, and also restoring human relations to its rightful status in the workplace. Labour and management are not by definition enemies. They are created for the purpose of working together."

Harry, as you continue your work even as you are retired, we trust you will continue to use the gifts you have been blessed with. And we thank you for your dedication, insight, and perseverance over all those years. We will miss you!

Ed Pypker
Ed Pypker

Ed Pypker is a former editor of Comment. He currently serves as Director of HR at ATS (Automation Tooling Systems), and as chair of the board of the Paideia Centre for Public Theology.


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