The Progressives were middle-class working people who desired a change in the American Government system. Their group consisted of women, African Americans, middle class workers, and union leaders. The women fought for their right to vote arguing that they needed to vote to keep their children and families safe (Keene, Cornell, O’Donnell 18.1.2). One of their main arguments was that many of the social problems of the nation were because of the poor living and working conditions they faced daily. The Progressives sought to reach a balance in the Government, they wanted to move away from the laissez-faire way of Government, avoid class conflicts, and prevent the government from having complete control of the economy. They thoroughly believed that the country had to reform or face the end of the democracy.
Through regulations, the Progressives hoped to abolish big business trusts, limit or prohibit child labor so children could be educated, and they wanted the Government to establish regulations for safety and conditions, minimum wage laws, and laws setting maximum hours for workers. Though it was for misogynistic reasons, women were allowed to work less. States mandated school attendance so child labor declined, the Progressives also set up clubs and playgrounds to keep kids away from theft and crime. Many exposés were written to divulge the unsafe, grueling conditions inside factories. As the public grew aware of these harsh working conditions, factories began to change their ways to be safer and more sanitary. For the business trusts, the Sherman Antitrust Act (1890) and the Clayton Antitrust Act (1914) regulated big businesses in hope to prevent them from becoming too powerful.
The Government should not prohibit child labor, but rather regulate it because the needs of each family vary. Safety should be regulated because it is in the best interest of the public and the Government to protect the population from unsanitary, unsafe business practices under greedy businessmen. The Government should regulate hours, set a minimum wage, and other laws because it would help protect those who unionized from receiving lower wages or losing their jobs.
Personally, I agree with the Progressives. I think the Government should have a more active role than in laissez-faire (hands-off) practices. As we’ve seen from studying this era, if the Government doesn’t regulate business practices, then greed will take over and lead to harsh conditions with low wages and unsafe and unsanitary workplaces. Child labor laws must be effect because every child should have a right to an education and should not be doing the undesirable, dangerous jobs or working unjust hours. Not to mention, our Government needs to offer some protection for workers who decide to unionize. It is their right to make that decision and the Government needs to protect them and their rights from businesses punishing them.
Keene, Jennifer D., Saul T. Cornell and Edward T. O’Donnell. Visions of America: A History of the United States, Combined Volume, 3/e. Boston: Pearson, n.d.