The Progressives’ ideal image of the United States would be a middle-class Utopia where education, heath, safety and security, and economic well being thrived.
The progressives were trying to create a more efficient and safe working environment. This included limiting the amount of hours allowed to work and regulation of quality and safety within factories, coal mines, etc. and increasing wages, and improving the overall well being for the working class.
Progressives were essentially seeking the middle ground between the competitive views of Unions and Industrialists. Progressives felt that government regulation was absolutely necessary in order to protect workers. However, this would negetively effect the big businesses being regulated by the government, and so Unions and Industrialists alike were not supportive of government regulations.
Progressives also felt that women could not effectively protect their children without assistance from the government and female trade unionists agreed. The difference being that the female trade unionists wanted to empower female workers by organizing unions in order to raise wages and improve working conditions.
Not only were Progressives trying to reform the work environment, but also the communities in which the workers lived. They focused on how the environment shaped the lives of the poverty stricken members of the community. Disease, overcrowding and crime were a common issue within Chicago’s neighborhoods. The progressives felt that by “improving sanitation and garbage collection, creating playgrounds for children, eliminating saloons, limiting the hours spent at work, reducing workplace accidents” would help to improve the environment in which the working-class citizens lived.
The government should ultimately create rules, regulations and laws, so that employees always have protections and cannot be as easily taken advantage of by their employers.
The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire showed the truly tragic reprecussions of “big business” exploitation and the government’s general disinterest in the well being of the working class. A specific example of this is during the fire, the employers had locked the female workers inside the factory as an attempt to curb the female workers from leaving early or stealing fabric and materials. Because these women were literally unable to escape, they began jumping out of the windows to try and save themselves from the flames surrounding and consuming them.
Although Unions made serious progress within the industrial workforce to protect the working class, there was still firm inequality in the type of workers they would protect by allowing them to join their bargaining units. Most all union members were only allowed to be white, male, skilled tradesmen. Women, blacks, and unskilled laborers were not allowed in some of the unions.
If the government made regulations over big businesses and industry, the rights would be unilateral across the board for all employees, across the nation; taking the big decisions out of the hands of the union leaders and corporate heads, keeping the workers health, safety, and well-being at the forefront, instead of profit.