Starvation wages for Weight Watchers workers

Some meeting leaders say they make less than minimum wage, while celebrity spokeswomen -- and its CEO -- earn millions.

By Aimee Picchi Feb 26, 2013 11:49AM

File photo of packs of Weight Watchers sliced meats (© Isopix/Rex Features)Losing weight is hard, but working for a weight-loss company might be even tougher. 

Weight Watchers (WTW) is coming under fire from some of its leaders, who accuse the company of paying them less than minimum wage, while celebrity spokeswomen earn millions. 

“We are professionals, we have to dress nice, but we are paid less than kids who work at McDonald’s," Tammy Williams, a leader in Texas, told The New York Times.

Weight Watchers pays its leaders an $18 base rate for running meetings. But according to some leaders, meetings can require as much as three hours of time, including setting up chairs and cleaning up, the Times notes. That means the hourly pay for some works out to be $6 per hour, or less than the federally mandated $7.25 per hour. 

Meanwhile, the company has spent millions hiring celebrities including Jennifer Hudson and Jessica Simpson, not to mention the $2.96 million it paid to Chief Executive David Kirchhoff in 2011, according to the Times. 

Poor pay is a complaint featured on reviews of Weight Watchers on, a jobs and career Website that offers employees at thousands of companies a place to vent. 

One reviewer, who said she was a former receptionist, cited the per-meeting flat rate as a problem, as well as the expectation that workers would perform some tasks -- such as getting change at the bank -- without compensation.

"This is not the job for you if you need to pay the bills," wrote another reviewer, identified as a former meeting leader.

Other low-paying companies are facing similar complaints, as profits and executive pay rebound with the recovery while rank-and-file wages fail to keep pace. Some Wal-Mart (WMT) workers are banding together to demand better wages, for example.

But some see a form of sexism at work, given that many of Weight Watchers' leaders are women. 

“It’s a female-dominated job, it’s in the service industry, and it’s caring work,” Sharon H. Mastracci, the author of "Breaking Out of the Pink-Collar Ghetto" and a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told the Times. "Caring work is undervalued, and they’re taking for granted that you care so much you’re going to be there no matter what."

Weight Watchers' unhappy troops are agitating at an awkward time for the company, which earlier this month reported an 8.9% slide in 2012 profits. CEO Kirchhoff said in a statement that the company has been disappointed by its recruitment trends so far in 2013.

More on moneyNOW

Feb 26, 2013 2:39PM
First a CEO of Yahoo yesterday and now a mostly woman management on Weight Watchers.... Seems like the war on women is by women.
Feb 26, 2013 1:38PM

I remember this way back in time. An beginning assistant manager at McDonalds, fixed salary, 50 hrs a week, plus meetings, three locations, I didn’t finish the pay period. 

Feb 26, 2013 6:06PM
That is why I stopped being a WW leader in the 90's.  It didn't pay to put on a pair of nylons and drive 20-45 minutes to a meeting..have to be receptionist, leader(have your motivational talk prepared, take care of bookwork, etc....they do not pay for the quality and the dedication that their employees give them...
Feb 26, 2013 7:24PM

Up to now, I had a lot more respect for the company....this puts a whole new light on it.  I've been a Weight Watchers attendee for years, on and off.....   Second thoughts since I can do much of it on my own with family support.


Feb 26, 2013 6:58PM

I worked fo WW, "not worth it". You have to dress business casual, a flat rate pe meeting which took 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours. I was so busy I could not attend the meetings.

Feb 27, 2013 10:34AM
I once was a leader, I spent hours every week putting lessons together and making charts, using my printer, my ink, my paper for less than minimum wage.  Its like a big companies, the ones at the top take all the big bucks and we are just to like what we get.  You got to really love what you are doing because as a leader or recpetionest, you eventualy  owe them!
Feb 26, 2013 6:15PM
Had 56 hr week (7 day) while back on VERY LOW salary as asst manager a store.
Spent 2+ HRS EACH WAY, EVERY DAY (4 hr/day) without compensation: NYC 1 hr subway to end of line and 1 hr car driven by Long Island manager who drove 2 hrs each way to Conn. Oh, what the young are able and "willing" to do to get ahead!

Feb 26, 2013 8:34PM

Lots of "companies" out there whose business models require something for nothing from someone in order to profit. The sooner these "companies" die the better. Seriously? Pay us and we'll make you not a fatass?

Feb 28, 2013 4:02PM
Give a call to Jessica Simpson and Jennifer Hudson who parade as social icons in their world. Jennifer Hudson gets lots of mileage in Chicago. May be they should care where they work and what workers are paid for. She publicly speaks out on issues of fairness in other areas. Jessica Simpson has made a lifestyle of right and wrong from her celebrity high tops.
May 29, 2013 4:59PM

I complained about the meeting set up and breakdown time lowering my rate to under minimum wage and they had my supervisor come out and "suggest" how to set up quicker.  She couldn't save me enough time to put me under minimum wage when she was at my site so she told me to keep working on it. 

Apr 29, 2013 3:10PM
I am suprised to hear this but also...come on now people, you should have done the calculations before accepting the positions. It isn't the fault of WW unless they mislead you into believing that the job entailed much less of a time commitment or less work. The fault is that of those who accepted their pay of $18 per meeting before fully understanding what this entailed. And of course they are going to pay celebrity spokespeople millions...they are celebrities. If my neighbor Jane was on a commercial tooting WW's horn who would pay attention??
Feb 26, 2013 10:04PM
They probably pooded their pants getting paid below minimum wage.
Feb 28, 2013 12:41AM
boo hoo. . . . shut up and find another job. maybe avon, amway or herbalie. if mcdonalds is paying better then start there you pathetic losers.
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