<why can't we as nurses get together and negotiate our own contact w the agency?>
you CAN do that but as just a group of non-union employees you can only do it if the employer ALLOWS you to. As a union of nurses, he is legally obligated to negotiate a contract with you.
As a group of non-union nurses, that law does not apply. Thats the big difference.
As just a group, you would have no legal power to get the employer to negotiate a contract fairly or negotiate any contract at all & will have no guarantees for a voice in setting the terms of your employment or working conditions. As a group, unless the employer, out of the goodness of his heart, decides to ALLOW you have to any input into your jobs, he makes all the decisions for you. If you are unionized employees, you have the legally guaranteed right to have a voice in decisions that affect your job.
Thats another big difference.
Once you are just a group of employees, your employer doesnt have to give you any contract at all & you cant force him to. As a group, you get the terms of employment that the employer wants to give you. He is under no obligation by law to work it out fairly with you or even to negotiate with the group at all. He can just turn around & say this is what the job is - take it or leave it. If he does ALLOW negotiations with the group, he still has the upper hand, all the control, can still say no to any of your contract terms, limit the sessions, limit the terms, and end negotiations wherever he wants and thats the end of your negotiating - he calls the shots - can still say take it or leave it & you have no legal leg to stand on to get what you need. If you are a union, he has no such control.
As a union, you have the legal right to determine your contract & have the laws to force the employer to negotiate with you. As a group you dont & he's in charge. But as a union, you legally have an equal say over your contract & can take him to court if he negotiates unfairly or wont negotiate at all. As a group, you dont have that power.
A union of nurses has certain rights & the employer has certain obligations that neither of you would have if you were just a group. There are certain protections & laws that pertain to you & the employer when you are a union that dont exist for you when you are just a group of employees & that leaves you at the mercy of the employer.
It might not make a difference as long as you have a fair, understanding, & generous employer, but once she leaves or some consultant makes a recommendation to make changes, the group can do nothing about it. An at-will employee has to just take it or look for another job. This cant happen to a union of nurses. They are not at the mercy of the employers whim.
But a group of employees has no say, ends up just having to take the chance that the employer will do the right thing by them & then hopes that he doesnt change his mind. For this reason alone, I will never work in a non-union facility again.
What do you do if, after you are no longer a union, your employer decides that he doesnt want to negotiate a contract at all & he just hands you his one & only offer which you find to be lacking or unacceptable? If you are not a union, he can do this. Your options: Sign on the dotted line or find another job. If you were a union and he did this, it would be illegal, he would be fined & ordered to negotiate a fair contract.
Instead of taking a chance in giving up your rights to a voice in your conditions of employment, & leaving yourselves all in the employers hands, hoping that he will be fair but having no guarantees & being at his mercy, maybe what you need is a professional RN union that is more responsive & better understands the RNs professional issues & needs.
Good luck with whatever you decide.