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ST. LOUIS • Marie Wiese attributed the dwindling attendance to employees’ working jobs the unions are protecting.

Others blamed a last opportunity for families to squeeze in a three-day vacation at summer’s end.

Whatever the reason, it was evident as the annual Labor Day Parade made its way along the edge of downtown St. Louis on Monday that participants vastly outnumbered onlookers at the annual event.

Wiese, who came out to support her union and brothers and sisters, believes her attendance in an election year sends an important message.

“This is a contract year and an election year, so it’s even more important,” said Wiese, of St. Ann. “Unions are important, and these people here get that.”

Wiese may have retired last year from Shop ’n Save where she was a member of the United Food and Commercial Workers. But her UFCW hat and T-shirt remain part of her Labor Day wardrobe.

“It seems like a lot less people than usual, but people are on vacation or they’re working,” she said.

The weather was all but perfect for the parade, which kicked off at 15th and Olive streets at 9 a.m. Monday, snaking south on Tucker Boulevard to Market Street, ending at the intersection of Market and 15th.

Along with the hundreds of representatives and supporters from 30-plus different unions, politicians such as Missouri Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Koster and Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-Mo., also marched in the parade.

Politicians and union workers alike tossed candy to the younger attendees, who cleaned house, having little competition.

Larry Pauly, a retired machinist, said his 4-year-old grandson was the reason he had come out to the parade.

“Little guys like this need to realize that there’s more to life than what you see from people on TV,” Pauly said.

When his children were younger, it was a tradition to bring them out to the Labor Day parade each year.

It’s a bummer that attendance is low, but Pauly won’t stop coming, he said.

The parade is organized by the St. Louis Labor Council.

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Ashley Jost is the higher education reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.