It’s Out of My Hands

The shop was like a sweat box,
The heat was ninety-three.
I had a little grievance,
As anyone could see.

I went to see the foreman
And called to him by name.
I asked him could he open up
That nailed-down window pane?
But my boss said, “It’s out of my hands.”

I asked to see my steward,
And the boss he did agree.
But for two more days, nor hide nor hair
Of either did I see.

I finally caught the foreman
As he was running by.
He said my message was delivered
To the proper guy.
And now it was out of his hands.

The steward, when I saw him,
Looked both shrewd and wise,
And told me how much more there was
Than seemed to meet the eyes.

He quoted several clauses,
Interpretations too.
Said that writing up a grievance
Was all that he could do.
Then it was out of his hands.

The Committeeman next came around,
Him I had never met.
The rest is strictly rumor
For I haven’t met him yet.

But the story, when I got it,
At third or second hand,
After many weeks of waiting,
I was made to understand-
It was out of his hands.

The next thing that I heard of,
Through the grapevine, tried and true,
It had reached the shop committee,
They’d see what they could do.

The days were getting shorter,
And fall was drawing near,
When the long-delayed decision I finally got to hear.
It was out of their hands.

I wish I could say
That this ended my ditty
But my case was referred
To the Screening Committee.

I was told I was lucky,
After months had gone by
That my grievance had not
Just been left there to die.
But it was now out of their hands.

The Umpire considered
And pondered and thought.
He was honest and upright
And could not be bought.

Of the one hundred grievances
We lost ninety-nine,
But the one that was salvaged
Turned out to be mine.

The window was opened
On a cold wintry day.
I shivered and shook
Till I thought I’d give way.

I went to the foreman
And called him by name,
And asked him to shut
That damned window pane.
But he said, “It’s out my hands.”

Martin Glaberman was an autoworker and Marxist historian. He wrote much about effective unionism based on his experiences in the workforce.