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Fast-Food Stocks Unharmed by Living Wage Protests

Chris Preston

Fast-food workers across seven U.S. cities went on strike today in protest of the low wages their fat-cat employers pay them. Workers at McDonald’s, Wendy’s and other chains are demanding a “living wage” – considered $15 an hour.

The bad publicity doesn’t cast the fast food giants in a favorable light. But Wall Street was un-swayed by the protests.

Fast-food stocks actually prospered today. McDonald’s (NYSE: MCD) shares were up 0.6%. Burger King (NYSE: BKW) performed even better, rising 1.5%. Only Wendy's (NASDAQ: WEN) failed to gain any traction, finishing flat.

Perhaps investors weren’t convinced that the protesters had much of a case. Many fast-food employees currently earn minimum wage, $7.25 an hour. It seems unlikely that McDonald’s and Wendy’s will suddenly more than double their salaries.

A spokesman for the National Restaurant Association told NPR that raising wages to $15 an hour would have a “severe impact” on fast-food business, where profit margins are allegedly tight. McDonald’s, by the way, earned $5.5 billion in profit last year. Burger King earned $117 million, while Wendy’s earned just $7 million.

Wherever the living-wage protests go, it appears the unwanted publicity stemming from them won’t have much of an impact on the share prices of fast-food stocks.