50 Years as the Voice of the Retired Public Employee

Founded in the fall of 1968, Mass Retirees has served as the lead advocates for all Massachusetts retired public employees for the past 50 years. 

From the Association’s humble beginnings, our mission has been to represent the interests of all public retirees at the state, local and federal levels of government. Our focus is public pension, Social Security, Medicare and retiree healthcare policy, for which Mass Retirees has become widely recognized for our expertise.

Known officially as the Retired State, County and Municipal Employees Association of Massachusetts, the Association was the creation of Ralph White – a decorated combat Marine, state Corrections Officer and Parole Officer. While serving as a Parole Officer in 1967, White was nearly killed by a would-be assassin, who shot him in the back in Boston’s South End. The attack forced White to retire with a disability pension at the age of 36, with four young children at home.

Having been a union activist, White was accustomed to advocacy and grassroots political activism. Now retired he quickly realized that there was no unified organization representing the unique interests of public retirees. While some unions did advocate for retirement issues, Massachusetts public retirees did not (and still do not) have collective bargaining rights. Therefore, pension and retiree health insurance benefits are not contractual rights that can be bargained – but rather gained through the political process.

White joined with a handful of other public retirees – teachers, firefighters and state retirees – to form a single statewide organization that would represent the common interests of all public retirees.

“Back then public retirees were treated as second class citizens. COLAs were restricted to only those retirees with pensions less than $2,000 and we had no rights when it came to retirement board representation,” recalls White, who served as Mass Retirees President until 2013. “We were able to get a list of state retirees and within a month we had 10,000 members. Things just took off from that point.

“From there we recruited retired teachers, then began to build up our local membership of municipal retirees. Since Massachusetts has one retirement law, Chapter 32, all public retirees share a common interest. From the beginning, our goal was to build an organization where all retirees were treated as equals – regardless of where you retired or what your title had been. 

“We also made sure that we assembled a top-notch staff at Mass Retirees, who are readily available to our members and known for their expertise. By design, the Association was built to serve our members and advocate on their behalf. 

“I’m proud of the Association we built and even prouder about the things Mass Retirees has been able to accomplish over the years for public retirees and surviving spouses. But I also know that our work will never be done. Advocacy and political engagement must be ongoing, otherwise public retirees will fall behind.” 

Today, Mass Retirees represents more than 53,000 dues-paying members and remains located on the 3rdfloor of 11 Beacon Street, Boston – right where it all began in 1968.