Blake Fall-Conroy, “Minimum Wage Machine,” 2008-2010
This machine allows anyone to work for minimum wage for as long as they like. Turning the crank on the side releases one penny every 4.97 seconds, for a total of $7.25 per hour. This corresponds to minimum wage for a person in New York.
This piece is brilliant on multiple levels, particularly as social commentary. Without a doubt, most people who started operating the machine for fun would quickly grow disheartened and stop when realizing just how little they’re earning by turning this mindless crank. A person would then conceivably realize that this is what nearly two million people in the United States do every day…at much harder jobs than turning a crank. This turns the piece into a simple, yet effective argument for raising the minimum wage.
Really great piece. Though, I wonder, what amount would be the tipping point that makes cranking the minimum wage machine worth it? Does minimum wage ever feel worth it? And, is there a way to re-frame / enhance / change the piece to change how people perceive minimum wage jobs?