We call it soundproofing

Among the expenses incurred in organizing this week's meetings in Laos of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations was $6,000 for turf . So, the lawn outside the huge Lao International Trade Exhibition and Conference Center (ITECC) in Vientiane needed patching, eh? No, the new grass was installed on the roof ... so the delegates underneath can hear each other. The ITECC is topped with corrugated metal on which falling rain sounds like a drummers' convention . And this is Laos's rainy season; Vientiane averages 8.2 inches during July and 10 inches in August. Said an ASEAN spokesman: "If there's a downpour now, it will not disturb the meeting.... The rain will hit the grass, not the roof."

Looking for union label? You may have to look hard

The labor movement is in turmoil, judging from a deep split in the AFL-CIO, which held its annual convention in Chicago this week, with as many as seven dissident unions having formed an alternative coalition. The sides are divided over how to reenergize the unionized workforce, which made up 20.1 percent of wage- and salary-earners in 1983 (the first year in which such data were compiled), but had dropped to 12.5 percent by last year. And where once the rank-and-file were dominated by auto and steel workers and others in heavy industry, today government employees, such as police officers and teachers, are about four times more likely to join unions than workers in the private sector. There are still states where the labor movement is powerful, but they've become scattered. The states with the highest union membership rates, by percentage:

1. New York 25.3%
2. Hawaii 23.7%
3. Michigan 21.6%
4. Alaska 20.1%
5. New Jersey 19.8%
6. Washington 19.3%
7. Minnesota 17.5%
8. Illinois 16.8%
9. California 16.5%
10. Rhode Island 16.3%
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor

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