Weight Watchers International made profits of $253 million last year by charging people a monthly fee for diet advice that is available for free elsewhere, and selling packaged diet food that is inferior to other food available more cheaply elsewhere. But hey, whatever works for you, etc etc. A more basic problem: they exploit their workers.

I did not know this! But as Steven Greenhouse reports today, Weight Watchers employees who run the company's group meetings (a staple of the program) are getting fed up with the basic pay rate of $18 per 2.5 hour meeting—about minimum wage. The mostly female work force feels the company is taking advantage of their affinity for the work.

Teri Weatherby began leading meetings in Hartford, Conn., after retiring from her job as an insurance company's senior vice president. "Other than the financial problems, it's probably the most rewarding thing I've ever done," she said. "That's what they prey upon. It's like an abusive relationship. You know you should leave, but you stay because you love it."

We strongly encourage Weight Watchers employee to boycott the stupid company until they raise their pay rate, which Greenhouse says has been static for a decade. We also strongly encourage everyone who pays any money to Weight Watchers International to stop immediately and instead follow a common sense diet like this one or this one or this one, and do some squats, which are free. You don't need any Weight Watchers at all, which is all the more reason for Weight Watchers to pay a decent wage to people who can convince people they do need Weight Watchers.

[NYT. Photo: Flickr]