The middle class is shrinking and the economic divide between the haves and the have-nots is growing, but low-income earners aren’t idly standing by and letting this trend continue without a fight. Many are standing up and sharing their stories, including a group of Weight Watchers employees. Steven Greenhouse shares the story of Tammy Williams, a Weight Watchers meeting leader in Texas, in his New York Times article Low Pay at Weight Watchers Stirs Protest as Stars Rake It In.
Williams and other leaders are concerned that the flat rate they receive for hosting a meeting isn’t sufficient and that when all is said and done, they are earning an hourly rate lower than the nation’s minimum wage. Leaders have to prepare for meetings ahead of time, set up the meeting place, host the meeting and then clean up afterwards.
The base rate for doing this is $18, and the rate hasn’t changed in a decade, but the cost of living has certainly changed. If a meeting takes three hours to complete, the hourly rate is only $6, which is less than the national minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
However, this is merely a base rate, and employees can earn more based on commissions from sales. So essentially, this is a sales job with a minimum earnings level. This is pretty standard for a sales positions, and this pay structure is why I never went into sales myself.
Some employees are pleased with the Weight Watchers compensation package. Tampa leader Kelley Brickfield likes that she can earn more through sales, and she complimented the company’s benefits package. Brickfield obviously understands that this is a sales position and not a salary position; if she wants to earn more than the base rate for a meeting then she needs to make product sales, sign up new members, renew existing memberships and more.
Yes, the widening income gap in the nation is concerning, but I don’t think that the Weight Watchers employees can lash out because of low pay when they have the ability to earn more through sales commissions. Other low-wage workers, like those who work at fast-food outlets, have no ability to increase their earnings. I'm not callous and uncaring, but if you don’t earn enough in a sales job for the amount of time you put into the job, then perhaps sales isn’t the industry for you.
‘Sunny’ touched on this topic in his comment on the New York Times article, “Hello---sales commission are dependent on signing up and retaining members. If one isn't good at that, one gets the hourly wage. That's the deal. Don't sign up for it if you can't deliver.”
There is more to this story than just the low pay. Weight Watchers CEO David Kirchoff earned more than $2 million in 2011, which leads to the low-paid worker vs. high-paid CEO story. We also have the salary disparity between female and male workers. Both are very real concerns, but it seems that the Weight Watchers meeting leaders’ main concern is that they are earning less than minimum wage. Without adequate sales they probably are and in my opinion these leaders should take it as a sign that they aren’t salespeople at heart and move on.
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