Leading Capone's assault was George "Red" Barker, a west side Irishman and former bookkeeper. Working under Barker as his assistant was the up and coming Murray Humpreys, a Welshman who had strong-armed his way into at least twenty-six Teamster locals by then. When the decade of the 1930s opened, George Red Barker was, as one Chicago cop put it, "riding on top of the world." Barker all but controlled the Chicago Teamsters and was reported to be earning $200,000 a year as a result.
Before he took to a life of crime, Barker had been an honest bookkeeper. He was literate, devouring every union newsletter and newspaper he could find from anywhere in the country, and paid for information on locals as well. Barker would get a copy of the financials and study them. If the union had potential, Barker recommended the takeover to Ralph Capone and Frank Nitti who talked it over with A1 Capone. If Capone agreed-and he almost always did-Barker and his boys would go after the union.
In early 1931, Capone urged Barker to go after the coal teamsters.
Barker approached James "Lefty" Lynch, a semi- honest thug who owned the Coal Teamsters Local 704, which delivered fuel to the entire downtown district where every office building depended upon the local for fuel to warm its buildings against the brutal Chicago winters. Barker told Lynch that Capone expected him to turn over half of the control of his union as well as his seat on the prestigious and important Joint Teamsters Council. In exchange, Barker offered Lynch protection. On the up side, Barker told Lynch, Capone intended to double the union's membership and as a result Lynch's income would double as well.
Lynch sat through Barker's speech and then threw him out of his office. It was his union and he wasn't going to give it up to Capone or anyone else.
Later in the month, Lynch went to his summer home on Brown Lake outside Burlington, Wisconsin. His family was preparing a barbecue and the members were seated around a long picnic table when Danny Stanton and Klondike O'Donnell, two of the meanest Capone hoods in Chicago, drove into the yard. They climbed out of the car slowly. They were in no hurry. There were no cops or witnesses around for miles. They were armed with shotguns, pistols and rifles. Stanton walked over to Lynch and said, 'The Big Fellow back in Chicago sends this message: you just retired from Local 704. From this moment on, you stay away from the union hall. You stay away from the office. You stay away from the Joint Council. You understand?"
Lynch nodded his head and Klondike added, 'Well just so's you don't forget what was said...." and pulled out his pistol and shot Lynch through both of his legs while his wife and children looked on in horror. Lynch fell to the ground, groaning in agony. Stanton bent over Lynch to make sure he was alive and said 'You got balls; I'll give you that." He stood up and turned to Lynch's daughter and said "get him to a doctor and he'll be alright."
At the next meeting of the Joint Council, Red Barker and Murray Humpreys appeared at the door with a dozen heavily armed Capone men.
Barker, carrying a baseball bat, stood in the center of the room and asked "Which one is Lefty Lynch's chair?" Somebody pointed to a large leather chair in the middle of the room and Barker sat there. He looked around the room and announced that he was now running the Coal Teamsters Chauffeurs and Helpers Union Local 704 and that everything would remain just the way Lynch had left it. The only difference was that the entire treasury was turned over to Capone except for $1,000 which was left to cover administrative payrolls.
After that, Barker went to the fuel dealers in the district and informed them that they were only hiring union members and that they were giving all of their drivers a massive pay raise or else Capone would see to it that not a lump of coal was delivered downtown.
The dealers had no choice but to agree and passed the cost along to the real estate developers who consequently raised the price of office space in the area. Capone kept Lynch on the payroll to avoid a revolt in the ranks. However, Lynch never appeared at another union function.
As a reward, Capone gave Barker control over the ushers' union with orders to exploit it to its full potential. Barker sent word to every theater owner in the city that they were to use his ushers for every political and sporting event, indoor or outdoor. He
said they would have to pay for "crowd control," a service only his union could provide, at a rate of $10 per usher.
Movie theaters avoided the hike by paying off Barker in cash. Five dollars per usher was less expensive for them. Within weeks Barker was being paid off by every strip show, opera, ballet, symphony, prize fight and ball game held in the city. He was collecting a fortune until one prize fight promoter named Walter George decided to hold out.
Barker waited until the promoter had sold out the entire Coliseum on South Wabash Avenue for a major prize fight. Then, just before the fight was to begin, a half dozen cabs pulled up to the coliseum and let out building inspectors, fire marshals, electrical inspectors, plumbing inspectors and health inspectors, all led by Red Barker. Within minutes after entering the building the inspectors declared that the water was unhealthy to drink and ordered it turned off. The hot dog, beer and soda concessions were shut down by the fire marshal and the electrical inspector said the wiring was faulty and ordered the stadium lights shut off. During the delay, the crowd became violent. George turned to Barker and said "All right, how much you bastard?"
Barker answered that his price was up to $20 per usher and that the minimum number of ushers needed for the night was 120. Barker was paid and the fight went on.The Touhys gunned down Red Barker. It was a damaging blow to the syndicate. Willie Sharkey, Roger's most reliable killer, had rented an apartment overlooking Barker's office and waited there patiently, perched in a window, with a water-cooled, tripod set machine gun. Sharkey killed Barker by firing thirty-six bullets into him in a matter of seconds as he walked down the street.