The Progressives were very concerned about the power and the influence of big businesses. The Progressives believed that businesses held almost all of the power. The Progressives wanted to level the playing field.
The Progressives were concerned about conditions in factories. The workers had long hours, low pay, and unsafe working conditions. Kids were working in the factories instead of going to school. The Progressives set out to change this. Worker compensation laws were passed to help workers that were injured on the job. Laws were passed to restrict child labor and to require kids to go to school. Safety regulations were developed for factories. Unions were given the right to exist with the passage of the Clayton Antitrust Act.
The Progressives were also concerned about unregulated business activities. The Meat Inspection Act was passed to require that the federal government would inspect the meat factories. The Pure Food and Drug Act prevented companies from falsely labeling foods and medicines. The Bureau of Corporations was created to investigate business activities. The Bureau of Mines was established to monitor mining companies. The Hepburn Act gave the Interstate Commerce Commission the power to set railroad rates. The Children’s Bureau could look into issues with child labor. The Federal Trade Commission could order businesses to stop unfair business practices. The Clayton Antitrust Act also ended price discrimination where businesses charged different rates to different customers. Railroad workers got an eight-hour workday with the passage of the Adamson Act. The Progressives also went after trusts that formed, especially those trusts that acted only in their own self-interest.
The Progressives wanted to give the workers and the common person a chance to be treated fairly by big businesses. Before the Progressive Era began, this wasn’t happening. The Progressive Era brought about many positive changes for the workers and for the common people.
The Progressives' concern with industrial concentration was that this sort of concentration ended up giving the large companies too much power. This was the era of "robber barons" with their monopolies and huge companies. Progressives felt that these people had too much power in the economic system (because their companies were so big) and in the political system (because they could "buy" corrupt officials). It was for these reasons that the Progressives were so eager to engage in "trustbusting" to break up monopolies. They also did things like instituting the direct election of Senators so as to make it harder for the rich to influence the election process.