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It's a new day at the Flower Show

Friendly labor cooperation means everything’s coming up roses this year. But will union picketers pull it into the weeds?

Workers from Valley Forge Flowers work on the Art Deco theater facade in the entryway Thursday, February 26, 2015 as they prepare for opening of Philadelphia Flower Show and its 2015 theme - "Celebrate the Movies."
Workers from Valley Forge Flowers work on the Art Deco theater facade in the entryway Thursday, February 26, 2015 as they prepare for opening of Philadelphia Flower Show and its 2015 theme - "Celebrate the Movies."Read moreTOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer

I HAVE A FAVOR to ask of the union members who've been picketing the Pennsylvania Convention Center:

Leave the Philadelphia Flower Show alone.

As in for real, guys.

If you're planning to disrupt the show the way some members of the Metropolitan Regional Council of Carpenters disrupted the Philadelphia Auto Show on Feb. 7 - don't argue they didn't; we're not idiots - please just don't.

Don't give a hard time to attendees, especially the sweet grannies arriving by bus, dressed in Alfred Dunner and comfy taupe shoes with Velco tabs.

If you make even one of these dear women feel guilty about entering the show, I'll beat you with a pussy-willow branch.

Don't buy tickets as a ruse to gain access to the show, either, only to make life hard for exhibitors. They've been planning for a year, and their handiwork is extraordinary. They deserve to enjoy the oohs and aahs of show-goers without worrying that one of you might "water" the orchids or "mulch" the roses.

It's time to give it a rest. You gambled by striking at the Convention Center last May - your second strike in a year - rather than abide by new work rules that any grown-up would find reasonable. Then your own leaders blew the deadline to sign a contract that would've let you stay employed at the center.

You've not been "locked out," as you claim. You stuck to your guns and shot yourselves in the foot.

I have an idea: Why not enter the Flower Show as an attendee? It'll mean crossing your own picket line, but you crossed it for the Auto Show, so what the hell.

Once inside, ask exhibitors if they've noticed a difference, now that the new rules are in place. That's what I did, and the answers I heard were unequivocal.

"In the past, they didn't always bring their 'A' team," said Robin Heller, co-owner of Flowers By David in Langhorne. She was in the midst of setting up her exhibit - a fantastic, 3,000-floral-stem depiction of a scene from the movie "Ratatouille" (in keeping with this year's Disney-movie theme). "There was a lot of hurry-up-and-wait for help. Someone would say they were coming over but then they'd go on break."

This year, she said, things have been handled in a jiff. Her hanging props (a chandelier and baker's rack) got set up in minutes. The water she needed to fill a large pool (a task that would've taken hours in the past) was delivered and poured in no time.

"We always had good relationships with the unions," said Heller, a 19-year Flower Show veteran. "We knew the rules. But this year there's a noticeable change. No one is crying!"

Michael Haschak told me that the overall personality of union workers has been better - "extremely better."

"Last year, I needed three simple IKEA shades hung from the ceiling," said Haschak, owner of Pure Design in Philadelphia. "The guy told me he had to go find wire. I said I had wire; he said he needed his own. It took him all day to find wire. He came back after 5 o'clock - when he'd get paid overtime."

This year, Haschak said, a worker who swiftly installed some hanging wood pieces was so remorseful about a barely noticeable mistake he'd made, he bought Dunkin' Donuts and coffee for Haschak.

"I told him it wasn't a problem - it was a section I was covering with fabric. He brought all of us coffee and donuts anyway," said Haschak. "He didn't have to do that; he doesn't even know me."

No one deserves love from laborers more than Flower Show exhibitors do. They don't make a penny on their exhibits, using the stipend they receive from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (the show's organizer) to buy flowers, props and extra help.

They also dig into their own pockets and solicit help from fellow floral artists to create their masterpieces.

Take Bill Schaffer and Kris Kratt, husband-and-wife owners of Schaffer Designs in Northern Liberties. When I visited them on Thursday, they were surrounded by 47 floral designers who'd traveled to Philly from three countries and 20 states, on their own dimes, to help Schaffer recreate spectacular scenes from "The Nightmare Before Christmas."

"We are on schedule and on time because the unions are doing their job," said Schaffer as a volunteer painstakingly attached 3,000 individual dendribium orchids - imported from Thailand- to a single hanging sculpture. "We couldn't do any of this without them."

He sounded absolutely joyful, as did all the exhibitors I met. For one week out of every year, they get to create their own floral dreams instead of the dreams of paying clients. And the results are more unique and astonishing than anything you'll see from 1-800-FLOWERS.

They deserve the excellent service they're enjoying from laborers who seem genuinely committed to a new culture of respect and cooperation at the Convention Center.

On their behalf, picketing union members, I ask you to behave. It's shameful that a judge had to issue a permanent injunction, after your Auto Show hijinks, barring you from harassing or interfering with people entering the Convention Center or from engaging in protest activity inside.

Please respect the order, and then stop in to smell the roses, peonies, tulips and orchids.

They're sublime.

Phone: 215-854-2217

On Twitter: @RonniePhilly