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Formed in 1937, the Research Department of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU) supported the administrative operations of the Union and coordinated the ILGWU's investigative operations. It provided union leaders with information on wages, working conditions, economic conditions, and other matters in the women's garment industry; analyzed information for the union; and monitored developments in the industry.

In addition to providing research for union leadership, Research Department staff prepared materials for Congressional testimony, presented cases on behalf of local unions to the War Labor Board, and worked to administer the Fair Labor Standards Act. At times, the director of the Research Department represented the ILGWU in national forums.

The Department also maintained an extensive library, collecting and housing documents from Union administrative staff that were deemed substantive and of lasting value to the Union, whether produced internally or externally. The information gathered by the Department was of particular value during labor disputes and contract negotiations.

Lazare Teper was the founding director of the ILGWU's Research Department, working in that position from 1937 to 1980. Born in Russia sometime between 1906 and 1908, Teper later studied at the University of Paris and earned his doctorate at Johns Hopkins University. He died in New York City in 1985.