Cesar Chavez’s Family Angered by RFK Jr.’s Use of Labor Icon’s Photo for Campaign

The image, which also features the candidate’s father, is part of a promotion for a campaign event marking Chavez’s birthday

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Getty Images

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is getting more flak for tapping into his family legacy in his independent bid for the presidency — this time from the family of late labor icon Cesar Chavez.

Kennedy is using a photo of his father, Robert F. Kennedy Sr., and Chavez taken in 1968 to promote an event in Los Angeles on Saturday, the Los Angeles Times reported. Its use, and Kennedy’s broader effort to tie his campaign with his father’s support for the United Farmworkers, outrages the Chavez family.

“Celebrate Cesar Chavez Day with RFK Jr!” the promotional website says below a large photo taken when his father sat to share bread with Chavez as the labor leader ended a 25-day fast supporting a strike against grape producers.

“Come down to the iconic Union Station in Los Angeles to celebrate the life and legacy of Cesar Chavez, a good friend of RFK and RFK Jr,” the promotion continues. “Cesar was a legendary organizer of farmworkers and voters, who exercised their citizen power. Today, we have an opportunity to take back our government with people power, We the People Power.”

The effort did not go over well with Chavez’s family.

“When we saw Bobby Kennedy begin to use images of my father, and then when we heard about this event in L.A., it really prompted us to stand up and to make sure that people understood that the Chavez family does not support his campaign,” Paul Chavez, one of Cesar’s sons, told the Times.

“We’ve never seen anybody go as far as using that image for political gain,” Andres Chavez, Paul’s son, said of Kennedy’s campaign event invitation.

The two men, who together with Chavez’s son Fernando run the National Chavez Center in Keene, California, said they are endorsing President Biden for reelection, and that if Cesar were alive, he would also support Biden’s reelection.

A recent Telemundo segment that featured an Associated Press photo of RFK Jr. helping carry Cesar’s casket during his 1993 funeral procession also angered the family. Fernando Chavez said Kennedy, then an environmental attorney, was one of hundreds of people who took part in carrying the casket for the miles-long procession.

A Kennedy campaign representative told the Times that an intermediary had reached out to the Chavez family to invite them to Saturday’s event but got no reply. “This event is a celebration of an organizing hero, Cesar Chavez, a man who worked with Mr. Kennedy’s father until the day RFK was murdered,” the campaign said in a statement to the outlet. “The campaign is proud to sponsor this celebration on the weekend that honors Cesar Chavez’s birthday in California.”

The admonition comes as the heat rises within the Kennedy family itself over the campaign.

Several of his siblings denounced RFK Jr.’s campaign in October as “dangerous four our country.” In February, he apologized for a super PAC ad recreating a 1960 presidential campaign spot of his uncle John F. Kennedy that played during the Super Bowl.

And this month, a gaggle of Kennedys appeared on St. Patrick’s Day in a photo with Biden at the White House, with RFK Jr’s sister Kerry Kennedy sharing the shot online with the comment, “It’s not enough to wish the world were better, you must make the world better. President Biden, you make the world better. Happy St. Patrick’s Day.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.