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Ann Arbor Family Braces for Impact of So-called “Right to Work” Laws on Wages, Small Businesses

Melissa Palma has gone to Michigan Basketball games since she was a child, but as she headed to the game on Saturday, she had a goal beyond seeing Michigan beat Arkansas.

“I want to confront Governor Snyder to let him know that so-called “right to work” is bad for my business and my family.”

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, a regular attendee at Michigan basketball games, has been dodging press–and his usual courtside seats at Crisler Arena–since he hurriedly announced on Thursday that he was suddenly supporting “right to work.” Within hours of Snyder’s announcement, “right to work” laws were passed by the Michigan House and Senate with no committee debate or public discussion. The doors to the Capitol building were locked to prevent protesters from entering for much of the day.

Ann Arbor residents Melissa and Rodolfo Palma, who have two children, brought hand-written signs to the Michigan basketball game asking for voters to decide “right to work” rather than lame duck politicians. Snyder was absent at his usual seat during the big game.

The Palmas are concerned about the effects of less money in their pockets under the new laws. These laws have a track record of lowering workers’ wages by an average of 3.2%, according to a 2011 report by the Economic Policy Institute.

Melissa, the founder and director of the Little Lake Learning Community in Ann Arbor, is a lifelong Ann Arbor resident and graduate of the University of Michigan. She expects to see her school’s enrollment–and her family’s income–take a hit as working people face lower wages.

“The success of Little Lake depends on the purchasing power of middle-class families. I don’t think the CEO’s who have pushed our legislators to pass this law have any idea what working people’s budgets are like,” Melissa Palma said.

The Palmas wondered whether they would be able to continue attending University of Michigan Wolverines Basketball games as a family with their son and daughter. As they attended this Saturday’s game, Melissa Palma noted, “This is something we like to do as a family here in town, but $30 a ticket is not cheap.”

Like many Michigan residents, the Palmas feel that legislators bypassed Michiganders in its actions on Tuesday. “I guess Snyder’s avoiding the people of this state,” Rodolfo Palma said. “I would be too if I were him. I’m sure we’re not the only Michigan family that’d like a word with him.”