"Not voting for Black people is actually like giving up your voice," said Brown, who is 33 and single. "What I tell people is that our ancestors worked so hard to vote and we must voice our concerns and vote for change. Voting does matter, even though some people think it doesn't."
A whole new ground game
More than 2,000 miles away, in Las Vegas, 34-year-old Joleen Reyes has been putting in eight and nine-hour shifts canvassing with the influential Culinary Workers Union, which has endorsed Biden. A member since 2012, Reyes comes from a union household. She works at The Cosmopolitan; her mother, who retired last year, spent two decades at Mandalay Bay.
This year, she has knocked on doors not only through midday desert heat, but also through the stench of smoke, drifting in from the west, when wildfires scorched swaths of California. The days begin at around 11 a.m., when canvassers -- more than 400 of them now from the Culinary Union and its national umbrella, UNITE HERE -- get their lists of doors, and last until around 7 p.m.
But the tools of this trade have changed.
Canvassers like Reyes wear face masks. They go out in pairs but walk on opposite sides of the street. They're offered hand sanitizer and gloves, but some people ditched the latter because they make their hands sweaty and cause them to drop the tablets they carry. When canvassers reach a door, they knock and then take a few steps back. If the person who opens up wants to speak, they'll either be asked to grab a mask or offered one -- which, if requested, is delivered with tongs. It's a process, the union said, that has now been repeated at more than 382,00 doors.
After all that, the conversation can begin. At this point in the campaign, Reyes said, there's not much persuading to do.
"A lot of people have made their minds up," she said. "So the only questions we're getting are 'where's the early voting post?' 'If I can go in and get it done right away?' And that's pretty much it. As far as the candidates, they'll ask me my opinion and stuff, but other than that, it's just been mainly 'where can I go vote,' 'how fast is it' and 'what day does it start on?' "
An even bigger shift is underway at the Communication Workers of America, which represents 700,000 people in the private and public sectors. It has dropped its past practice of having volunteer members call everyone in their local but not record the results.
Instead, after polling showed that voters were not likely to change their minds, no matter whom the union endorsed, the CWA decided this year to reach out to a narrower list of members.
The aim is to convince the group of persuadable members and loyal Biden supporters to vote for Democrats in seven battlegrounds and nine US Senate races, said Margarita Hernandez, the union's legislative and political field coordinator.
CWA organizers are closely monitoring the results, too, providing callers with different scripts depending on where in the voting process the members are -- whether they have requested a ballot, whether they plan to vote early, or whether they've actually cast their ballots. The callers then follow up, repeatedly, and don't remove members from the list until state records show that they have actually voted.
The union is also using technology to make virtual phone banking more fun. An organizer, for instance, will gather members on Zoom for a two-hour session. The group will stay online while they go through their list, excitedly reporting their successes in the chat, Hernandez said.
"We read about history -- the Great Depression and the Civil Rights Movement and all of that," Hernandez said. "We really wanted folks to feel like we're actually in one of those moments right now. We are in this moment where things can go one way or the other."
Three unions that are backing the President, including the Fraternal Order of Police, did not return calls or emails seeking comment.
The SEIU, which is made up largely of essential workers who have worked on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak, has left it up to local leaders whether to go door-to-door, said Mary Kay Henry, the international president of the two-million member union of health care, property services and public sector workers. A bilingual effort is underway in parts of the battlegrounds of Pennsylvania, Florida and Wisconsin.
Members have already knocked on well over 1 million doors and expect to hit hundreds of thousands more before Election Day. They have also sent 50 million text messages and made 42 million phone calls.
Some in the union have also gotten creative amid the pandemic. In Miami, one group participated in a caravan of cars covered with "Todos Con Biden" signs and radios all turned to the same station, passing out leaflets as they drove through town.
The union is also drawing upon its essential workers to push for Biden, who leadership feels will do a better job tackling the coronavirus.
"We need a better leader in office," said Rivas, 44, who participated in a roundtable discussion with Jill Biden and other SEIU health care workers earlier in the month. "That's why I got involved."
The desire to defeat Trump and a yearning to connect with voters is what launched Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, and allies on a month-long bus trip, criss-crossing the country to get out the vote for Biden.
The nationwide tour has brought socially distanced rallies, with the union -- which has been lobbying for resources for teachers thrust back into the classroom with little federal guidance -- mandating masks and social distancing, and in some cases providing personal protective equipment, to 15 states.
"If you look at any of the Facebook Live events, we always wash off the podium. We always wash off and use different microphones. We're always wearing masks," Weingarten said over the phone from Scranton, Pennsylvania. "I've never spoken so much in masks."
The unusual circumstances, she added, injected a sort of giddiness into the events. The common thread -- meeting voters, and voters seeing each other, once again. In real life.
"People are joyful about being together and about being engaged in this way and seeing each other. And you see a longing for normalcy again and a longing for being social. The social isolation has really hurt people," Weingarten said. "That is, in some ways, some of the most angering things about the President's failures here tackling the virus and then denying that (cases are) going up again."
A battle on multiple fronts
But the prospect of more aggressive electoral work, as the union might have imagined it earlier this year, has been effectively ruled out by the pandemic. The odd phone banking session aside, the union's capacity for traditional canvassing and rallies has been diminished.
"We've been fully focused on trying to save jobs," Nelson said. "Half of my members don't have jobs or health care right now. That is job number one for a union."
Still, she told CNN that Biden's potential election represented only an opportunity for unions -- not a victory in its own right.
"I think that we have a responsibility to build up the labor movement and actually have the ground game that gives us the ability to get the priorities that the Vice President has set during this campaign accomplished," Nelson said. "Because those are all really nice things that he said he's going to do. And even some things that people would like to push them farther on. But we're not going to get all that accomplished if we don't have a living and breathing labor movement pushing and making it happen."