Union membership may be in decline across America, but here in the Bluegrass State, unions still have the power to force workers into becoming dues-paying members against their will. That means if you work for an employer who contracts with a union, you can be forced to pay union dues as a condition of employment.

That’s outrageous. It’s long past time Kentucky follow the lead of 24 other states and pass right-to-work legislation. Right-to-work laws are simple enough. They empower employees to decide on their own terms whether they prefer to spend their hard-earned money on joining a union, or if they would prefer to take that money home.

Right-to-work legislation is a smart policy that boosts economic development while advancing workers’ rights by ensuring workers are not forced to join, and thus aren’t limited by the dictates of a union.

We support right-to-work laws at every level of government – federal, state, and local. We’ve joined together to push for national right-to-work legislation in the U.S. Senate in the past. Just this week, we again introduced the National Right to Work Act. And we see great benefits for Kentucky to pass a state right-to-work law. We were pleased to see the Kentucky Senate pass one, and we encourage the Kentucky House to take up and pass this pro-worker reform.

Local jurisdictions throughout the commonwealth are fed up with waiting for a state or federal law that will provide them with the safety net from big labor they need. That’s why we support Warren County’s recent move to pass its own right-to-work legislation. Other Kentucky counties, including Simpson, Fulton, Todd and Hardin, have followed Warren County’s lead to stay competitive. Local jurisdictions should do everything they can to increase their own competitiveness, which is why we applaud other counties in Kentucky following in their footsteps.

Warren County, like the rest of Kentucky, must compete for employers with neighboring states, many of which, like Tennessee and Indiana, have already passed right-to-work laws. Without a similar incentive, Kentucky will lose out in the race to attract businesses that create jobs in our communities. It’s no accident that manufacturing employment is one-third higher in states that embrace these policies, and that nine of the top 10 states for business and jobs in America are all right-to-work states.

Until big labor’s grip on workers and employers is loosened, Kentucky will keep falling behind its neighbors that have right-to-work laws. Over the past decade, growth in private-sector jobs in right-to-work states was 15.3 percent; in Kentucky it was only 6.9 percent. You might think that forced union membership would at least bring with it higher pay, but you’d be wrong: Compensation in right-to-work states grew at a rate of 14.2 percent, while in Kentucky it was only 4.3 percent.

At its core, the right-to-work is really about worker freedom. One survey showed that 80 percent of union members said employees shouldn’t be forced or coerced into joining a union. No one should be forced to join a union they believe fails to represent their personal interests.

Five counties in Kentucky have passed ordinances to ensure this protection is extended to workers in their jurisdictions. We support them and hope that other counties as well as the state legislature will soon follow suit.

— U.S. Sen Mitch McConnell is the Senate Majority Leader and Paul is Kentucky's junior U.S. senator.