Working Class Hero

Alina Lupu


While Timișoara’s economy rises and falls on the back of its industry and its workers, how the city is experienced is often on the handiwork of service industry workers who receive the minimum wage. Romania’s 2023 minimum wage is 3,000 lei gross, 1,898 lei net, yet a liveable income is estimated at 3,275 lei.

‘Working Class Hero’ probes Timișoara’s minimum wage dynamic, examining its recipients’ lives, the support systems they rely on, and their role in the city. The project features the stories of five archetypal minimum wage earners — the waitress, the cashier, the supermarket worker, the museum attendant, and the self-employed starter.

Based on interviews and studies, the stories are fictionalised to protect identities and emphasise them as indicative of shared experiences. By partly developing the narratives and characters using AI tools, the project hints at the potential automation of these jobs. This not only raises financial concerns for the workers, but highlights the potential impact of a human-less service sector on Timișoara’s identity.

© Seba Tătaru
Full Video: Working Class Hero. Courtesy of the designer

Alina Lupu was born and raised in Romania, and works as a writer and post-conceptual artist in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Her work is concerned with the conditions for participation in the economy.

Data sources
  • Guga, Stefan. 2021. ‘Minimum Salary and Minimum Decent Living — From Myths to Opportunities.’
  • Government of Romania, 2019. ‘Impact Analysis Regarding the Guaranteed Minimum Gross Salary in Payment for the Year 2020.’ 

Thank you to the interviewees that granted their time.

  • Audio recording support: Jörn Nettingsmeier.
  • Composite images generated through DALL-E and videos generated through D-ID.